A/N: The final chapter! We did it! This story was a blast to write and thank you everyone who came along for the ride (and those who will come later)! Thank you Duke Serkol for helping me with this! It wouldn't be as fleshed out without you!
Everyone, please enjoy the last chapter!
(Also I added a line in the Ganon chapter to explain why they didn't have their own paraglider, since apparently *spoiler* everyone has one in AoC)
The Grand Finale
Zelda glanced around Impa's home, spotting Robbie and Purah with their heads bent over the Sheikah Slate and Link in the corner cleaning the Master Sword. Not spotting the owner of the house, Zelda rose to seek her out. Climbing the stairs, she heard movement in Impa's room and when she reached the top, she knocked on her door.
"Impa? Is it okay if I come in?" Soft footsteps and an open door were her answer.
"Princess, how may I be of assistance?" The sheikah bowed her head.
"Oh, um." Zelda glanced down the stairs before leaning close, "I've got more to tell you regarding the blue jay."
Instantly Impa's mannerisms changed, her face lighting up as she opened the door fully and excitedly motioned for the princess to step inside, closing it behind them.
"The blue jay?! You mean-" Impa looked towards the door as she whispered, "Link?" At Zelda's shy nod, Impa clapped her hands rapidly, "What happened? Please, tell me everything!"
"Oh, Impa. I wish I could have told you sooner!" Zelda couldn't stop the happy sigh that escaped her, "Even before he received help from the Fierce Deity, he always stood between me and any danger, making sure I was as safe as possible. But you should have seen him when he was fighting against those guardians. So heroic! He," She blushed as Impa nodded encouragingly, "It's a bit embarrassing to admit now, but he held me when I was giving into despair. He was a solid presence and such a source of strength!"
"He certainly looked dashing when he came to the village with you as the Fierce Deity. I didn't realize it until later, but he was carrying you on his back, wasn't he?" Impa gently bumped Zelda's elbow with her own, grinning as the princess giggled.
"He did! Do you know how hard it was to hold on to his shoulders? The only reason I didn't fall off was because he had an arm under me. And his face," Zelda paused, a charmed look in her eyes, "He may have had glowing eyes, but those red markings and white hair made him seem even more mysterious and handsome. Did you see how gorgeous he looked?!"
"Very gorgeous." Impa nodded solemnly, a twinkle in her eye, "I admit, I was slightly jealous of his strength. He looked like he could grab a tree trunk and rip it out of the ground no problem, almost like a Hinox, but much, much more pleasant to the eye."
"Well, considering he seemed to have absolutely no problem carrying me around while fighting guardians, I wouldn't be surprised. He always made sure I was as safe as could be before tearing through them." Zelda sighed dreamily, unabashed.
Impa fidgeted, "Princess, forgive my impudence but-" Impa cut off as they heard Purah laughing loudly at Robbie's protests.
As the commotion continued, drawing Zelda's brows down, Impa spoke up, "Would it please you to take a walk to a more secluded place where you can show me the runes you unlocked?" And 'where we can talk more freely without fear of interruption or eavesdropping' went unspoken.
Zelda looked up at her brightly, "Yes, that would please me very much." Grinning at her advisor, she led the way out and down the stairs. They reached the bottom in time to see Purah waving the Sheikah Slate around, shushing Robbie as he tried to convince her to stop. Impa swiftly walked forward and plucked the slate out of her sister's hand, returning to the princess's side before they realized she'd taken it.
"Wha-?" Purah turned around and frowned at her sister, "Why did you take it? I wasn't finished with it."
"Princess Zelda wishes to show me the runes that were unlocked." Impa stated, handing it to the princess.
"Oooh, let us join." Purah grinned as Link rose from his seat, putting his sword back in his sheath.
"That's not necessary. I will be there to guard her and we wish to go alone." Link's face twitched at Impa's words as Purah squinted at her.
"I will be well protected with Impa. Please stay here and rest, Link." Zelda assured her knight.
Robbie said, "We have been experimenting with it these past few days, but I would like to get another look at it."
Impa and Purah communicated silently before the older sister turned around, clapping her hands, "Now, now. They're clearly not just going to look at the slate and its functions. They're going for some girl time. Surely you recognize that?" She placed a hand on her hip, raising an eyebrow.
"How were we supposed to recognize that? And why wouldn't you go?" Robbie asked, head tilted.
"Because someone needs to stay behind to keep you two in line. Ladies, please enjoy your time out. Don't worry, Impa, your house will still be standing by the time you get back."
"How comforting." Impa mumbled, smiling reluctantly at Zelda's giggle, "Shall we go?"
"Yes." Zelda nodded, already tapping at the device as she followed Impa outside. She brought up the runes and trotted behind her advisor, smiling at the children, sheikah and hylian, that ran by her. Seeing the recovery from the Calamity's devastating attack brought her joy. The people thinned out as Impa led her out of the village and into a small area that had a cluster of rocks in one area.
"This area is perfect!" Zelda grinned, "What should we start with first?" She glanced around the clearing as she thought, "There are two different Bomb Runes, but considering you already know how bombs work, I won't demonstrate them for you, but their shape and coloring is beautiful." On cue, she pressed one of the runes and a square shaped bomb appeared in one of her hands.
"It is the same color that ran through the guardians before they were infected with malice. It makes sense since this is a sheikah invention. How did it appear out of thin air?" Impa lifted the bomb when Zelda offered it to her.
"We don't know yet. And so far, we don't have a limit to the amount we can use. We've summoned at least thirty of them, of the square and circular bombs, and haven't ran out yet. Purah thinks that they're stored in the shrines and are teleported here by some sort of magic. And considering we have a fair amount of shrines across Hyrule, the number could be infinite."
Impa set the bomb down and it vanished at a tap on the slate. She looked at the device and pointed to a yellow colored rune, "What about that one?"
"It's called Stasis Rune. I think it'd be better to demonstrate this one." Zelda looked around and held up a fist sized stone, "Can you grab the fallen tree branch?" As Impa did, the princess hefted the rock up and down, "When I throw the rock upwards, it's going to stay in the air and I want you to hit it as hard as you can with the branch, okay?"
At Impa's dubious nod, Zelda tossed the rock in the air, quickly tapped the rune, and took a large step away. Despite the obvious surprise on the sheikah's face at the rock defying gravity, she swung at it and yelped a little bit when the branch broke on contact, making her hands ache from the impact.
"What-?" She frowned at the rock and poked it. When it didn't move, she pushed against it, slightly stunned that it stayed in place. For the second time in as many minutes, Impa let out a startled noise when it suddenly launched away from them, flying out of sight and almost making her fall on her face.
Unrestrained laughter brought her out of her stupor. The princess' hands covered her mouth as she unsuccessfully attempted to gain control.
"Your-!" Zelda gasped as a couple of tears escaped out of her eyes, "Reaction!"
"Princess, please. I didn't expect that." Impa closed her eyes, fighting back the blush that threatened to stain her cheeks.
"It's just," She giggled, "Link did the exact same thing when we showed him." The princess fell to the grass, trying desperately to get a hold of herself.
Impa wasn't able to suppress the blush and looked around for a distraction, "What's that other rune. The pinkish one."
Zelda looked up at her, chuckles still escaping her lips, "It's-" She cleared her throat, "It's the Magnesis Rune."
"Does this one also have hidden surprises?" Impa raised an eyebrow at the fit of renewed giggles that overcame the princess.
Princess Zelda calmed down, taking a few deep breaths before grinning at her friend, "No, this one can, as far as we know, only move around metal objects. We discovered this completely by accident. Link's shield happened to be in the most fortunate place when we were testing it. Here, you try it. I'm sure your dagger will work."
Impa took the slate before throwing one of her daggers on the ground. She pressed the rune and it seemed a wave of colorful energy poured out before immediately retreating back into the slate. Her brow furrowed as she tried again, with the same result.
"You have to be pointing the slate at the dagger for it to work." Zelda advised, tipping the slate downwards.
"Thank you." Impa nodded, once more pressing the rune and grinning as the energy seemed to grab onto the weapon. She lifted the slate and delight filled her face as the dagger rose with it.
"How is it able to do this?" She wondered.
"We're still unsure. Purah thinks it may be magic while Robbie thinks it could be scientific." Zelda explained.
"And what does Link think in all this?" Impa asked, steadfastly avoiding Zelda's flushed face and narrowed eyes.
"He thinks it's fascinating, but doesn't put too much work into figuring out the fine details. He always listens to me when I talk about it and does ask questions occasionally. There were several times he's helped me figure something out by simply letting me talk my way through a problem. He's always been like that and I don't know what I would have done without him by my side."
Impa looked at her, before tapping the rune and retrieving her dagger, "Princess, I was wondering," She fidgeted slightly, but continued on, handing the slate back to her, "From what you've told me and the way you did it, I have to wonder, have you… you know… could you actually be-"
"In love with Link?" Zelda cut the chase, making her advisor's eyes widen, and clipping the slate to her belt, "You probably knew that before I did Impa, but yes. Yes, I am."
Visibly vibrating, the Sheikah maiden couldn't stop herself from grasping the princess's hands into hers, "That's wonderful! Oh your highness, I'm so happy for you!"
"Thank you Impa, I am… oh, it's so amazing!" She beamed, "It was like blinders have been removed from my eyes and I saw the world for the first time. I-" She cut off as Impa made a slashing motion with her hand and glanced to the side without moving her head.
The advisor raised a finger to her lips before asking, "So the king allowed you to travel across Hyrule while he was fixing up the castle and Castle Town? How's it been so far?"
Zelda squinted at her before hearing soft footsteps rustling the grass, "Ah, yes. It has been most freeing, especially now that I don't have to worry about awakening my sealing power. A boulder size weight has seemed to lift off my shoulders. Granted we've only arrived here three days ago, but I am enjoying it."
A gentle cough had the two girls looking at the hylian champion, who stood behind them.
Link looked at them with an apologetic expression, "A message from his majesty, King Rhoam, has been delivered for you Princess."
"From father?" Zelda frowned, "But we have hardly arrived here. It's only been a couple of days."
Impa tilted her head thoughtfully, "Maybe it has something to do with the Yiga Clan. I did inform your father that they were more active and that you were a likely target."
Zelda hummed noncommittally before leading the way back to the house. Flanked by Link and Impa, she couldn't stop her thoughts from imagining the contents of the letter. "Does he want me to go back to the castle to stay so there's less of a chance of the yiga getting to me? But we have Kohga, so they should be without a leader and therefore disorganized. Did he change his mind that quickly?"
"Heya, princess." Purah said to her as they entered, ignoring Impa's frown, "You have a letter from the king." She waved the letter in the air, "And I told you sis that your house would still be standing." She expertly ignored Impa's unimpressed look.
"The messenger told us to give it to you as soon as possible." Robbie said beside Purah, gladly retrieving the Sheikah Slate from the princess.
"Thank you Purah, Robbie." Zelda nodded at them as she took the letter and opened it with practiced ease. Everyone fell silent as they watched her eyes read the page.
"Sooo… Do you have to go back?" Purah questioned as Zelda frowned.
"Well, yes. But not for the reasons I thought." Zelda said.
"What do you mean?" Robbie asked.
"He wants me to deliver letters to the four tribes, saying that this must be done by someone of high importance rather than a simple messenger. And considering I am the second most important person in the kingdom, he expects me to go, so he can finish repairing the castle."
"So he's making you go back, only to send you on a journey. Why not send the letters with the messenger?" Purah frowned.
"Father has to bestow them on me personally so we know no one is trying to impersonate him." Zelda explained.
"I'm sure he also wants to know how his daughter fares after Kohga and his cronies attacked. And were soundly defeated!" Robbie added with his usual flare, smiling as Zelda blinked at him.
"Ah, yes. I suppose that would be another reason." Zelda nodded.
"Princess Zelda, I would be honored to accompany you and Champion Link on your way back to Hyrule Castle and on your journey, if you'd have me." Impa bowed.
"That would please me very much." Zelda grinned when Impa looked up, excited to have another young woman to talk to.
"Would you mind, princess," Purah asked, "if the Sheikah Slate stays here? I would love the opportunity to study it more and hopefully gain new insight on this device."
"I still haven't figured out how the Master Cycle Zero runs on anything you put in it." Robbie mused, absentmindedly.
"Of course. Once I have completed the task my father gives me, I should be able to return here and join you in your study." Zelda nodded.
Link spoke, "Given how fast a messenger was sent out after Kohga's attack, King Rhoam may want us back to the castle as soon as possible."
"Indeed. It'll take us a couple of days to get back, but I'm sure he knows that. We must leave as soon as possible. Impa, would you help me pack up?"
"Yes, princess." Impa followed Zelda up the stairs.
As soon as they shut the door, Zelda twisted around, eyes bright, "Impa, I'll be able to travel around Hyrule without the overbearing burden of having to awaken my powers! I'll be able to focus more on getting to know Link and… Oh." The grin slipped off her face as she frowned.
"What's the matter?" Impa asked.
Zelda looked away, "I just remembered that we'll have to go visit Princess Mipha as well. I found out that she fancies Link as well a little while ago."
"Ehh-?! She does?" Impa said, taken aback. "That… makes things more complicated."
Glumly, the princesses nodded, "Link… he will be happy to go to Zora's Domain. Woods let him borrow the zora mask, the one I told you about in my tale, because he was told any items the others arrived with will go back with them no matter where they are. He'll likely go swimming with her again."
"Now princess," Impa chided lightly, "I'm sure you know Link is free to choose whoever he wants. But don't forget that includes you, whom he spends the most time with."
Zelda nodded, "I know, and I've already promised myself I won't exploit Link's role and his sense of duty to give myself an unfair advantage. But still..." She pouted, unsure how to express her feelings.
Impa gave her an encouraging smile, "I know it's easier to say, but try not to worry about what may happen and take it one day at a time. Why worry about something that may never happen?"
"To prepare for the future, in case it does." Zelda muttered rebelliously despite the grin making its way on her face.
"Princess…" Impa's deadpan look on her face made Zelda laugh.
"Yes, if I did that with everything, I'd be a complete mess. Believe me, after all that I've gone through to awaken my powers, I know that far too well. Now, I really did need help packing up. Father is awaiting our arrival and we shouldn't make him wait any longer than necessary."
"The throne room is mostly stable, save for a pillar or two." Impa reported, making Zelda glance at the large room from the bottom of the stairs.
"That's a relief to hear. I'm impressed with the amount of work that has been done so far." Zelda commented, glancing around the relatively clean walkway.
Impa grinned, "Pade told me that many of the survivors are helping out, wanting to return the kingdom back to normal as soon as possible."
"Makes sense-" Link cut off as a panicked guard's voice shouted,
"Wanderer, LOOK OUT!" The three of them rushed up the stairs and toward the throne room as a loud crash sounded. They entered into the room filled with dust and several coughing soldiers.
"Wanderer, are you alright?" King Rhoam's voice called out.
"Fine, fine. I didn't think the whole pillar would collapse when I pulled that one stone away." Wanderer replied, his silhouette becoming more clear, "Sorry about that everyone. I should have known better considering my experiences with palaces and unstable stone blocks. At least here I won't be met with angry armored foes leaping out of the rubble!"
"Get me nearly crushed again and you'll be met with one alright!" One of the soldiers guffawed as the dust settled, making everyone more visible.
Zelda blinked several times, struggling to take in the fact that her father was in common garments and was completely covered in dust to the point where his beard and hair looked grey, instead of it's usual pristine white.
"Father, I have arrived." She spoke, not sure what else to say.
"Ah, my daughter." King Rhoam greeted as he walked forward, "I am relieved to see you safe and sound. The sheikah returned with Kohga and the rest of the yiga have scattered to the wind."
"Yes, father. I am glad to see you in good health." Zelda bowed, prompting Link and Impa to do the same.
In good health and a good mood, judging by the unusually wide smile on his face, "Indeed, indeed. Link, Impa, it is wonderful to see you as well. We have made much progress this past week and I feel like the castle will be fixed in no time." In fact, for people that should be exhausted from work, everyone in the room seemed quite... cheery.
"Princess Zelda! And quiet me-but-not-me! Back again so soon?" Wanderer strolled over to them, a wide grin on his face.
Link stepped in front of the princess, "Please, mind the distance. You're covered in dust."
"Oh, come on, it's not a palace dress she's wearing, I'm sure some dust would do her no harm. Rather, Link, I would say you are looking a little too dust-free and clean for a hard working man, don't you think so, King Rhoam?"
The king of Hyrule nodded seriously, though with a playful glint in his eye, making Zelda blink in surprise, "I do think so. It almost seems like our esteemed knight has hardly had to test his mettle since his victory against the Calamity."
Wanderer drew himself up to his full height, "That simply won't do." Glancing around, he moved to the right as he loudly proclaimed, "On guard, you rapscallion!" And with mighty, exaggerated movements, he picked up a wooden stick and pointed it at Link.
Link tilted his head at the sudden movement, glancing at Zelda with a confused expression.
"Well, Sir?" Rhoam questioned, "He is challenging you! Are you not going to answer?"
"What is going on with my father? He's never like this." Zelda stared, confused, unable to respond to her champion's wordless question.
Impa gave Link a nod, standing closer to Zelda, letting him know that she would watch over the princess. Regardless, he still hesitated, clearly thrown off by the seemingly lax atmosphere.
Zelda, still in slight shock, waved him forward, "Uh, go ahead Link, have... fun?"
Sending her a grateful look and definitely egged on by the continual taunts of the king and hero, Link took off his shield and sword, grabbing a stick for himself, a small smirk gracing his face.
"Atta boy! Now let's DANCE!" Wanderer grinned as he rushed forward.
Zelda looked on, slightly bewildered at the time traveler's attitude as Wanderer and Link crossed swords… sticks? And shuffled around the throne room. The soldiers called out encouragement as grins broke on the combatants faces. Wanderer talked, making snarky comments that eventually had Link dishing some back.
"I said to dance, not stand and salute!" Wanderer's stick smacked on the wall as Link dodged.
"You call repeatedly thrusting your weapon high and low 'dancing'?" Link's grin grew as he rolled away from Wanderer's spin attack.
"You wound me with your words. But I will forgive this slight because you seem to be my match! This is excellent! I usually find gaps in the defense of the monsters I fight within moments." Wanderer chuckled, dodging a horizontal swing and retaliating with a forward stab.
"Not bad yourself. I like to think I have better fighting abilities than brutish monsters." Link responded.
"Good point. I haven't tested much of my strength against my fellow men, but I am delighted to find someone on my level!" A free laugh escaped from Wanderer's lips as he turned and ran around the throne room, careful to avoid the rubble that may bring down a pillar as Link chased him.
"My soldiers!" Rhoam's voice echoed through the chamber, "Are you going to let Link and Wanderer show you up? Demonstrate the pride of the hylian knights!" A resounding agreement seemed to shake the room as the men searched for a stick and paired off, joining the mock battle. Laughter rang in the air as the increased movement made dust rise in the air.
"What is going on?" Zelda asked, thoroughly confused. "Is… is father encouraging this kind of behavior?"
She glanced at her knight, and was suddenly very glad that her father was allowing the current mayhem. He had a boyish grin on his face that she'd never seen before and her eyes could not stop following the hylian champion. It almost seemed like the longer he remained in the throne room, the more he was being infected by the general mood of the soldiers. Zelda was startled out of her thoughts as Impa gently guided her a few feet away from her father
"You don't seem to mind too terribly." Impa whispered, giving her a lopsided grin.
Zelda whipped her head around, then narrowed her eyes "Impa…"
The sheikah leaned closer, "No one's paying attention to us." She murmured, "Why not take advantage of being able to watch him without arousing suspicion. After all, the blue jay is looking mighty fine right now."
"Impa!" Zelda hissed, her face flushing.
Impa looked at her innocently, "Am I wrong?"
Zelda made a strangled noise, turning her head away in time to see Wanderer dive away from Link's stick.
Impa's mischievous giggle kept the blush on the princess's face. It didn't happen often, but when the sheikah woman allowed herself to become more playful, it was a dangerous thing for those around her.
Impa took pity on the princess and called, "Pade!" A sheikah appeared in smoke, dropping to a knee, "What has gotten into everyone?"
Pade hesitated, "Some of the soldiers found the wine cellar and the king decided to distribute it among the workers. They took a break this morning and had a feast to celebrate the end of the Calamity and the fact that they were nearly done with cleaning the castle in such a short period of time. These soldiers are more sober and wanted to continue working after the feast."
Zelda didn't have enough time to respond and Wanderer's loud voice would have drowned out anything she could say anyway.
"Enough of this!" Wanderer dramatically threw his stick away, turning rapidly and making Link stumble as he tried to stop, "We fight like men!" With a roaring tackle, catching Link by surprise, they were soon rolling on the floor, dirt and grime coating their clothes as they narrowly avoided running into the others.
"An unexpected move!" Rhoam laughed, shaking his head, "You fight well, Wanderer!"
"He's taken such a liking to Wanderer, even though they just met. For so long I wished he would treat me with affectionate fondness such as this." Zelda could not stop the hurt that rose from that thought.
"Thank you, your majesty! I try!" Wanderer grunted as Link gained the upper hand, holding him in a headlock, yelling in jest, "Link, you're not supposed to be this good!"
Link's response was cut off as two soldiers tripped and fell over the heroes, breaking his hold.
"Ha! Free once again!" Wanderer rolled away, nimbly dodging Link's grab.
"Not for long!"
"Father," Zelda pulled Rhoam's attention towards herself, trying to shake her thoughts out of her head, "You sent me a missive, saying that you wanted me to deliver letters to the four tribes?"
"Ah, yes, yes. Let us talk outside for a little bit, where it's less noisy. Impa, Pade, come along and guard us." The sheikah responded with a salute, walking directly behind the members of the royal family. The king hummed to himself as he led the way out, a small grin on his face as he held his hands behind his back.
"Might I ask about the content of the letters you want me to deliver?" Zelda queried as they walked down the stairs. Her question wiped the smile from his face, causing him to sigh. He glanced at her before turning his head to the giant divine beasts that rested in Hyrule Field, suddenly more sober than he was a few seconds ago.
"It is a letter requesting the village leader and the champion of that race to attend a meeting so we may decide what to do with the divine beasts."
Zelda's eyes widened, "What to do with them? What is there to do? Why wouldn't they go back with their chosen champion? Father… you're not considering burying them again, are you?"
Rhoam pursed his lips, "The thought has crossed my mind. It would be a simple and effective way to put things back the way they were and avoid any possible power struggles. But I would like the input of the other tribes on this matter. We did choose them to pilot the divine beasts and I do not know how they would react to us keeping them here or burying them."
Zelda looked at Impa for help, causing the sheikah to send her an apologetic look as she said, "The divine beasts were created by my people to defeat the Calamity, as requested by the royal family. Whether they can have a purpose beyond that, I cannot say. It is quite possible that we'll find them not functioning as they used to, now that they are no longer needed."
"I- I see." Zelda bowed her head, unsure how to process this information.
"Wanderer suggested asking the other tribes their opinion and to send you as our representative." Rhoam said, causing Zelda's head to rise quickly.
"He did?" Zelda's brow furrowed, "Why would he designate me specifically?"
Rhoam smiled at her, "The topic of your years long, taxing pursuit of your power and how you had to put aside your personal wants may have come up. This, he suggested, is a task that will allow you to stretch your legs outside of the castle's cooped up confines and without too stringent limitations when it comes to time. I agreed with him."
"He rarely agrees with me. What makes Wanderer so different?" Zelda glanced at the ground, gratitude welling up inside her despite her unease, "That… does sound nice. I should express my thanks to you both."
"No need, Princess!" Wanderer proclaimed, making her jump as he bounded down the stairs, hair and clothes askew, "After all, if your history is to be believed, difficult as it might be for me and you to do so, then we are in fact family."
"F-family…?" She was surprised to realize she hadn't really thought of it that way.
"Please don't start calling me gramps." He winked, "Anyway, your knight is extremely strong and I don't think you have to worry about any dangers as long as you stay near him. I'm proud to share the same name as him."
"You flatter me too much." Link spoke dryly as he followed behind, shaking his head when a small smile stole across his face, similarly tousled.
"Oh my, Link. You are covered in dirt." Zelda hid her smile as Link looked down at his grey tinted tunic.
"I should clean up." Link started to run his hands quickly through his hair, dislodging the dust.
"A little dirt never hurt anyone." Wanderer grinned at Link's quirked eyebrow.
"If it did, I feel everyone here would be in trouble." King Rhoam chuckled, causing Zelda to once more frown.
"He's so much more open with him. Family…Does he see him as the son he never got to have?" She shook her head, "I need to stop all these jealous thoughts."
As she was distracted, the heroes continued their verbal skirmish, "That's a small detail. I-" Wanderer cut off as he became ramrod straight, glancing right then left, "...Uh?"
"What?" Link paused in his efforts to return his shirt to it's bright blue color, always alert for any dangers.
"I…" Wanderer frowned, "I thought I heard something…"
They waited for Wanderer to offer more information. He didn't.
"Huh." He shrugged, his smile looking slightly more strained.
"Are you alright?" Zelda asked.
"Perfectly fine, thank you princess. Oh! King Rhoam, do you want me to go get the letters for you?"
"He's dodging the question. Why?"
Rhoam gazed at Wanderer, expression thoughtful. He spoke before Zelda could inquire further, "That's not necessary. Pade, the letters."
Pade reached into a satchel on her side and pulled them out, handing them to the king with a bow, "Here, your majesty."
Straightening his shoulders, King Rhoam turned to Princess Zelda and held out the missives, "My daughter, I am entrusting you with this task of visiting the four tribes and delivering these letters. Wait for them to write a response before returning. Do you wish to rest before going on your journey?"
Zelda dipped her head, unable to stop the soft upturn of lips as she looked back at him, "Thank you, father, but I will continue on after Link is able to freshen up a little. I'll send you letters of my progress."
"Of course, Zelda. I pray for your safe travels."
The hylian princess curtsied before taking her leave, the distant sound of rowdy knights fading the further she walked, flanked by Impa and Link.
"I only need a couple of minutes to change. I apologize for making us take this detour." Link bowed his head to her.
Zelda smiled at him, "It's quite alright. We do need to get a few provisions for the trip anyway." Seeing Impa's knowing grin from the corner of her eye, her thoughts turned towards the upcoming journey.
"It's up to me to decide our itinerary. If I were to leave Zora Domain for last, I'd have more time to try getting closer to Link before he sees Mipha again… would that be unfair? No, I've just realized my feelings for him days ago, Mipha has known him since forever, it's not wrong for me to try and get caught up! …is it?"
"I don't get it." Daruk scratched his head, shields clanking against his back, "Why not let the divine beast decide?" Four pairs of eyes landed on him as they climbed the side of Death Mountain.
"Let… the divine beast decide?" Zelda repeated, making sure she heard correctly and the heat wasn't making her delusional.
Daruk nodded, "Yeah. Rudania chose to let me pilot it, made me prove I was worthy of it, so why can't it choose what it wants to do?"
"That's… not how it works." Despite Impa's words, her brow furrowed in thought.
"It's not?" Sea tilted his head, shifting a shield half the size of him on his back.
The pirate's charm resonated, "You may want to let those of this time discuss matters you are not familiar with."
Link looked off to the side, confusion tightening his face, carrying a similar shield. A moment of silence fell upon the group.
"Well, I suppose you can bring this up when you get to the castle." Zelda said.
Sea shot up, "Can I come?"
"Of course, Tiny Guy!" Daruk laughed, "I wouldn't have it any other way!"
"Yes! That means I'll be able to explore more!"
"You like exploring that much?" Impa asked.
"Yeah! And exploring land? How can I say no to that?" Sea exclaimed, "Don't get me wrong, I love the sea. It is beautiful and there are plenty of adventures waiting on its waters. But there's not much land in my time and seeing so much of it still shocks me. I mean, look at that!" They reached a high point and he gestured to the beautiful land of Hyrule sprawled out before them, "It's gorgeous!"
"It is." Link nodded his head as they stopped to admire the scenery.
"Personally I think the view behind us is even prettier." Daruk said, turning to gaze at the red rocks covering the mountain.
"They're both beautiful." Impa stated, "We live in a beautiful country and I shudder to think of what the Calamity would have done to it if we had failed."
"It's sobering to think about." Zelda said and glanced at the pirate's charm quietly hanging by Sea's neck.
"So let's not." Sea hefted the shield off his back and placed it on the ground, "Alright, this is a good place to start. Daruk and I made sure this area had no danger of falling in lava."
"Yep!" Daruk nodded enthusiastically, "And the slopes are not too bad either."
"Are you sure this is wise?" Impa asked, unconvinced.
"I am quite certain it is not." Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule's voice answered, skepticism coloring his voice.
"In all honesty, he's probably right." Link said but still set down his own shield, moving it closer to the edge.
"Whose idea was this anyway?" Impa asked, one of her eyebrows raised.
"Not mine." Daruk, Sea, and Link chorused.
Impa narrowed her eyes at them, "I suppose that's probably true and it took all three of you to come up with this idea."
"Now, now." Daruk held up his hands to prevent her from speaking more, "Just because I told them there was no way they'd beat me in any type of race, did not mean that I was looking to prove it."
"Again, you'd never beat me in a sailing race." Sea said.
"Goron's aren't made to sail! We stay on perfectly good dry land." Daruk huffed and put down the spare shields he was holding.
Impa's eyes narrowed slightly before she sighed, "I don't get it. If you guys need to determine who is faster, why not have us stay at the bottom to say who won? And why leave the spare shields here? What if yours breaks halfway down?"
Link looked up at her, suddenly suspicious, while Daruk scratched his head, "I didn't think of that. I'm sure it'll be obvious who wins. And all these shields are new, there would be no point carrying them up and down repeatedly."
"Plus it was a perfect way to talk to Daruk about the content of the letters while getting a little exercise." Zelda added. Impa's gaze bore into the princess, but before she could say anything, the ground shook slightly and the sound of rocks falling crashed to the ground.
When it settled down, Impa looked at the three men/goron with a raised eyebrow, "Are you sure it's going to be safe sledding down the hill after that?"
"Of course." Daruk nodded, "Look at the way the mountains tilt away from us. So if any rocks did come loose and fall, it'd be away from us, not towards us."
Sea spoke, "Considering Daruk's knowledge on mountains, I believe him. Alright, are you guys ready?" He asked, already standing on his shield and sending them an expectant look.
"Ladies, can you give us the signal?" Sea nodded to them, already crouching as Link joined him and Daruk rolled into a ball.
"Daruk, remember you agreed to a five seconds headstart. Impa will provide a count down for you." Zelda waited for his assent before saying, "Ready? Set… GO!" Sea and Link tilted forward and instantly started sliding down the slope, gaining more speed the longer they went.
"Five, four, three, two, one!" Daruk accelerated so fast, he didn't go anywhere at first before he launched off the side and followed after them.
"Are you ready to go, Impa?" Zelda didn't wait for an answer as she grabbed one of the spare shields and dropped it at the edge, eagerly looking up at her advisor.
"We- we're going to slide down as well?!" Impa looked at her in disbelief. "Princess, this is too needlessly dangerous…! If you- if we mess up, it's a long, painful way down."
Zelda dismissed her fretting, "You are with me and they are ahead of us, so they can catch us if we do tumble down. What's there to worry?"
Impa stared at her, "Princess, if you're doing this to impress Link, I really don't think he would want you to."
"Of course he wouldn't, he's so protective of me… but I need him to know I can be fun, even if I can't swim up a waterfall." Zelda huffed.
Impa struggled with mounting panic, not liking the uncertainties of this, "Princess, please, you-"
"Go!" Zelda giggled as she hopped onto her shield, letting gravity take over as Impa let out a shriek and hurriedly grabbed a shield.
"I'd think that she'd be a little reserved about sliding down a mountain like this. If it was covered in snow, I could understand." Impa thought, grumbling to herself as she slid down in pursuit of her charge.
"Come on, Impa, let's have a race of our own!" Zelda called back, making Impa's heart jump in fear as her shield wobbled when the princess looked back.
"Princess, I beg you, look where you're going!"
"No, you're not!" Impa wanted to scream that out, but comforted herself with lightly biting her lips. She watched carefully, until she heard an enthusiastic whoop from the heroes ahead. In that one moment of distraction, she heard Zelda give off a screech. Whipping her head around, Impa flailed slightly as the shield shook. She glanced up in time to see Zelda going towards an opening in the cliff wall and fall through the edge, her scream decreasing the further she went.
"Princess Zelda!" She twisted on the shield and jumped from it, her scream alerting the men that something was wrong. Impa didn't bother to see what they did as she landed and skidded. The momentum scraped her knees and hands, but she hardly realized it and as soon as she stopped, she scrambled up the mountain, back to the area Zelda had disappeared into.
"Princess-?!" She looked over the edge, slightly relieved to see that the slope leveled out and there was no lava in sight. But Zelda was also nowhere to be found.
"What happened?" Daruk's rumbling voice almost made her jump out of her skin. In her overpowering consuming concern for the princess, it seemed that her Sheikah training fell to the side.
"Princess Zelda went through this hole in the rock to this side! But I don't see her." This time she didn't fail to notice Link and Sea join her.
"How did she manage to find the one place where she could go off course?" Sea sighed.
"It's actually quite typical." The pirate's charm sounded off.
Link, bless his heart, did not show any confusion or hesitation and immediately went after the missing princess, snapping Impa out of hers as she followed after him.
The rest of them hurried along as they heard the guttural cry of several bokoblins followed by a feminine scream.
"Not good." Daruk quickly passed them and was out of sight as he rolled into the new area. They heard him slam into one of the monsters and the dull thud of it ramming into the wall. The two hylians and the sheikah turned the corner and engaged the enemy, the battle lasting less than a minute.
"Princess, are you hurt?" Impa turned around, blinking in surprise to see Zelda in front of another woman, pressing her against the wall.
"I am not injured. I'm glad you made it in time." Zelda sighed in relief, moving away from the wall as the woman followed her, trembling in fright and sweating horribly from the heat.
"Oh, she needs a fireproof potion, doesn't she?" Sea moved forward, already digging through his bag to get one, "The heat is no joke this far up Death Mountain."
The woman held onto the hylian princess's arm for support as Sea removed the cork and gave it to her. She drank it, relief visible on her face directly afterwards.
"Thank you." Her raspy voice sounded rough.
"Daruk, we need to get to Goron City. Sophiel badly needs some water."
"You're hurt." Link spoke softly, his eyes fixed on a scrape on Zelda's arm. The princess blushed under her knight's attention.
"She- She crashed into one of the monsters, saving me." Sophiel spoke, tightening her grip.
Zelda cut Impa off, "I am alright, really. Maybe a bruise here or there, but nothing is broken and I'm only a little sore."
Impa's lips pursed, but she said nothing. She took a glance at Link, it looked like her charge did manage to impress her knight. Hopefully she wouldn't keep endangering herself for the sake of it.
"Let's get you to the village. They'll be able to take care of you there, Sophiel." Sea smiled at her.
Sophiel smiled back, "Once again, thank you. Kohar and I-" She cut off as her eyes widened in panic. Twirling in a complete circle, she started shaking again, "Wait! Kohar needs me! She's trapped under the rubble!"
"Don't worry!" Daruk said, "We'll help you. Where was she trapped?"
"She's underneath that rock in a wedge on the ground. She pushed me out of the way so I didn't get hit, but now she's can't get out-"
Impa blinked as Daruk suddenly stiffened when a whine sound from around a boulder.
"Oh, Kohar! I'm coming!" Sophiel hurried forward, stumbling slightly in her haste.
"Wait, Kohar isn't a person… is she?" Sea glanced hesitantly at Daruk as the goron took a step backwards.
"No, she's my dog." Sophiel crouched to the ground and looked through one of the cracks, "Love, I'm here, don't worry. We'll get you out of there as soon as we can."
"Oh dear, how are we getting her out?" Zelda asked, walking forward, "She's lucky there was a hole there."
Quiet murmuring drew Impa's attention away from Link following the princess.
"They likely won't be able to remove the rock without your assistance." King Daphnes said through the stone. Daruk's expression twisted into the most complicated look Impa had ever seen on him.
Sea frowned, "But that would require getting close to… the dog."
"Would you rather leave her and let her figure out her dilemma herself?" Daphnes didn't sound upset, merely curious. Several moments of silence descended on the group as Daruk tapped his foot, seriously considering the question, surprising the sheikah. She'd assumed that he would be jumping at the opportunity to help, especially when he was the only one who could lift the rock.
"No." Daruk shook his head, straightening his posture and clenching his hands, "She needs our help. I-" His voice cracked, making him clear his throat, "I have my Protection if I need to use it." Seemingly before his courage could falter, Daruk strode forward towards the hylians.
"I didn't know he was afraid of dogs." Impa gave a small smile, "And yet he's willing to face his fear to help out a stranger. He's truly remarkable."
"I need you guys to step back." Daruk said as he reached the rock, looking upwards, "When I lift the rock up, there's a chance that the rocks on top of them will fall. I'll be fine, but you'd be squished like bugs."
Zelda followed his gaze, up the boulder that was over twice as tall as the goron to the sheep size rocks on top of the rock, "Oh, of course. Thank you Daruk." Her eyes softened, clearly understanding what an undertaking this was for the goron champion. Link and Zelda led Sophiel away far enough for Daruk to work. He took a shuddering breath before crouching and grabbing underneath the rock. A whine from the inside made him flinch and the air around him to flicker orange. Taking a deeper, reinforced breath, Daruk heaved, lifting the rock pile two feet upwards.
Immediately Sophiel whistled and called, "Kohar! Come!"
Daruk visibly tensed and shook as the tan dog wiggled out of the opening. Impa saw him turn his head in the opposite direction and squeeze his eyes shut, his shield automatically forming around him. As soon as the dog was free, Daruk released the rock, shakily breathing out.
"Kohar, LOOK OUT!" Sophiel screeched, attempting to run forward as a rock the size of her dog fell from the pile on top of the boulder towards Kohar. Link and Zelda holding her back seemed to make her more panicked. Daruk reacted instinctively and reached for his weapon, twirling with elegance that belied his size and smashed the flat side against the rock, making it fly over the slope of the mountain.
"Kohar!" Sophiel broke from their hold and rushed forward, greeting her dog with tears in her eyes. Holding her pet tightly, she looked up at the shuffling champion, "Thank you. Thank you so much. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost her."
"You're welcome." Daruk mumbled, taking several steps back when Sophiel buried her face in Kohar's fur.
"Aww, she's beautiful." Zelda cooed, coming up behind her, "Can I pet her?"
Sophiel sniffed before releasing her dog and nodding, "Yeah, she loves attention." Kohar let herself be pet, her tail wagging furiously. Zelda ran her hands through the dog's fur, murmuring how cute and soft she was despite being in the dirt a few minutes ago.
Sophiel walked over to Daruk, "I truly can not express how grateful I am. I-" She cut off in surprise as Daruk released a small shriek and backpedaled. She blinked at the goron until she saw Kohar trotting towards him, having followed her master, "Kohar! Come!" Sophiel barked out, making the dog freeze in her tracks and immediately head for her side. But it was too late. Daruk had backed up too far and lost his balance against the sudden sharp slope, tumbling down.
"DARUK!" All voices called out and rushed to the edge of the mountain, relief weighing heavily on them to see him safely encased in his shield and rolling towards a small open area that had a cave in the rockwall.
"He's..." They turned to see Sophiel with a frown on her face, "He's not scared of dogs, is he?"
Sea nodded guardedly.
"Oh dear, I would have made sure Kohar stayed away from him if I'd known." Sophiel sighed as she put a hand to her cheek, using her other hand to pet her dog.
"You would have?" Sea asked, eyebrows raised.
"Of course. I love Kohar to death, but I know that not everyone shares my sentiment. Granted I'm a little surprised because he helped earlier, but if he's afraid, then he can't help it." Sophiel shrugged, walking to the edge to peer down at the champion that had yet to return. After several moments of contemplation, she said, "I can make it to the goron village on my own. I wouldn't want to inconvenience him or the rest of you. Can you point me in the right direction?"
Sea looked startled before a pleased expression crossed his features, "I'll show you the way." He turned towards his friends, "I'll come back after I get her safely to Goron City."
"I would appreciate that very much." Sophiel beamed.
Impa watched them walk off, Sea seeming much more excited to talk to the stranger.
"Daruk!" Princess Zelda yelled down, "She's left with the dog. You can come back up here!"
"Princess." Impa repressed a sigh, "Yelling like that is quite undignified."
They watched as Daruk seemingly ignored the princess, shuffling around and entering into a little cave-like area. He reappeared almost as quickly as he'd disappeared.
"Guys! I found a mineral vein that looks like it could be turned into some prime rock roasts! Give me a few minutes to dig some of this out!" Daruk yelled back.
"Ugh." Impa couldn't stop the grimace from taking over her face, making the princess laugh.
"It's considered one of the most delicious dishes to the gorons but... it's still rock. I doubt it would be good for our palate. Or teeth." Zelda mused, making Impa nod her head rapidly.
The women blinked as the sound of a shield hitting the ground had them turning their heads to see Link step onto it and single-mindedly surf towards the cave.
"That… that was quite the determined look on his face." Impa said, slightly stunned as his quick departure.
"Of course. Food. Any food will have him like that. Hmm," A contemplated expression crossed Zelda's features, "Maybe I should have some food related 'accidents'; get cream from some sweets smeared on my cheek or the back of my hand..."
Impa gave her an unreadable look, "From here on princess, please, stick to 'accidents' that are NOT dangerous, will you?"
"My, this would look lovely on you, my dear." A pink feathered rito, Pratha, held up a garment on Zelda making the princess blink. This was not what Link expected when he set foot into the village. Before the knight could comprehend what was happening, the princess had been physically pulled into this store by a green rito child, saying something about how they have the warmest clothes on this side of Hyrule, Impa and Link along with her. The kid disappeared quickly after that, claiming he had a meeting with someone that he couldn't miss.
Link, already dressed for the cold, was waiting patiently when Impa's polite voice drew his attention "I am dressed warmly enough, thank you." All three in the store looked at her suspiciously. How was she warm enough in those clothes? It looked like she was wearing tights on her legs, which should not be able to keep enough heat in this weather. Was there a hidden sheikah technique for keeping oneself warm?
"Mom! Mom!" A small yellow rito ran into the room, chatting excitedly, "Look at what Loft helped me find!" She proudly held out a sneaky snail, grinning widely.
"How beautiful, Sathe! He must have a good eye if he managed to catch sight of that snail." Pratha grinned down at her daughter, gently ruffling the top of her head.
"Mhmm! He's going to help me find a trout later and Revali promised to shoot the fish out of the water! He's- OW!" Sathe flinched, drawing her arm closer to her body.
"Oh dear." Pratha folded the clothes she was holding and knelt down to the yellow chick's level, "Your arm is still healing honey, so you need to be more careful."
Sathe pouted at her mother, "But Loft, Revali, and Gebe are going to go flying soon. I have to be able to fly with them."
"Why don't you ask Loft if you can ride on Crimson with him?" Zelda asked, peering down at the young rito.
Sathe turned to her, surprised, but shook her head, "I want to fly with them. Gebe has gotten to go with them more times than I have. I want to show Revali that I am just as good!"
"I bet that if Revali hurt his arm, he'd have to hold off on flying as well." Zelda said.
"No way, Revali's too strong for that."
"You're too kind, Sathe." Revali spoke dryly from the entrance into the shop, Loft behind him.
"Revali! Are we going flying now?"
"In a bit." Revali's eyes locked onto Link's, "Loft had a proposal for you, Champion Link."
"More like you wanted to make a proposal on my behalf." Loft chimed in with a raised eyebrow, making the rito twist his head at him.
"We both know you wanted to ask." Revali huffed, turning back to Link, "Since Loft was trained as a knight in his time and you are a knight for the royal family, you should have a sparring match, to see who has superior skills."
Zelda gasped in delight, walking towards Loft, "You're a knight! I did not know that!"
Impa gazed at Loft thoughtfully, her hand tapping the sheath of her kodachi, "He is wearing chainmail similar to those hylian knights wear."
"You said you're from a time before kings and queens. How are there knights back then?" Link tilted his head.
"Knights are the protectors of the people of Skyloft and their main job is to prevent anyone from taking a tumble off the edge. Since monsters come out of hiding at night, our job includes guarding our people from them." Loft explained, "We don't swear allegiance to any one person, but we swear to protect the people."
"You fight against monsters." Impa nodded, "So that's why you don't have arm guards or wear much armor."
"Precisely." Revali cut in, "They still have a Knight Academy they attend, similar to Link's own and-"
"Revali!" A young voice called out behind him, the green rito that had dragged Link, Zelda, and Impa into the shop, "Are we going flying yet?"
Revali frowned at being interrupted, "Not yet, Gebe. Link and Loft are going to test their skills against each other first." The child gasped with excitement.
"Really? We get to see them fight?! LOFT AND LINK ARE GOING TO FIGHT!" Gebe shouted in glee, immediately turning around and yelling that phrase through the village.
"Please don't fight." Sathe scurried over to Loft and tugged on his arm, "Mommy says that fighting is bad, so you won't, right?"
"It's not going to be an all out fight, they're testing their skills against each other. Don't worry, no one is going to be badly hurt nor is there any enmity between them. Well," Revali shook his head, "With all the noise Gebe is making, it's safe to assume that we're going to have a crowd watching us. Shall we proceed to an open area?"
"Link hasn't given us an answer yet." Loft said, halting them in their tracks.
"I can hardly say no, now that Gebe has announced it in such an exaggerated manner." Link smiled, his eyes bright at the chance of a match against another hero.
"That's good. I already asked one of my clan members to get training weapons for you to use."
"We can go to the landing platform. That's the biggest space in the village and Crimson can fly below us in case we fall off." Loft led the way outside, a sizable crowd already gathering around the shop.
"Comforting." Link did not look comforted.
"I…" Princess Zelda stepped up to him as they walked, looking strangely nervous, "It's a little scary, but… I'm convinced you will not need Crimson to dive after you Link. You're much too skilled to slip off the ledge."
Link stared at her, his facial expressions switching through emotions too quickly for her to catch before he settled on neutral, "Thank you, princess."
"Of course." Out of the corner of his eye, Link caught Impa pumping up her fists in the princess's direction. What was this all about?
"Alright, here we are." Loft grinned at Crimson who stood at the edge of the landing platform, "And Revali, you did mention something about training weapons, didn't you?"
"I did. Most of them are bows, but we do have the odd sword here and there." Revali nodded as a bright colored rito landed near him and handed him the swords. Giving them to the heroes, he spoke before taking to the air, "Crimson and I will keep watch over you as you duel."
Fi's voice was heard coming from the sword on Loft's back. "Master, I must inform you that should your loftwing or the rito Revali fail to catch you, there is only a 1.6% probability that you would survive a fall from this platform."
Loft sighed, "That's… heartening Fi. And should one of us fall, what's the probability that either of them will catch us?"
"The chances of that happening amount to 97% based on the assumption that only one of you falls."
"Good enough for me." Link commented.
"…I wonder if we'll see Link compete with all of the other heroes." Link overheard Zelda muse as she and Impa walked past him, while he and Loft tested the balance of the sword and swung it around. He looked around, noticing several rito perched on the tops of houses and on the rocks. Zelda's squeak had him glancing at her as she shot her advisor a stern look, hampered by her blush.
Revali's voice drew back his attention, "Heroes! Are you ready?" When the two nodded at him, he said, "Begin!"
Both heroes balanced on their toes, watching the other.
"Well, Loft. We have people looking for a show. Let's give them one." Link sent him a small smile.
"I'll do my best to keep up." Loft tilted his head before lunging forward. Link blocked it, twisting to the side, and sent a jab back. After a few back and forth blows, Link knew Loft was talented and his style of fighting was exceedingly different from Wanderer's.
"You are skilled. Do you fight against lynels, perchance?" Link asked, jumping over a low swing.
"No, but I do fight against bokoblin's and lizalfos, who know how to block extremely well. It can get a tad annoying." Loft responded, dodging to the side to avoid Link's vertical slice. As soon as he landed, he leaned forward and caught Link's following blow.
"Those are very obnoxious kinds of monsters." Link nodded, doing a horizontal swing. While his spar with Wanderer (if it could be called a spar) was rough and wild, Loft gave off a certain air of respect that Link felt the need to match.
The crowd cheered with each strike, and Link noticed Zelda bore a luminous smile. She seemed to be enjoying their performance. Usually when he dueled other knights, he won quickly and efficiently. Loft was making him work for it and it seemed like they were equally talented at swordplay, both yet having to land a single hit. The heroes playfully taunted each other while moving dramatically, definitely giving the crowd a show.
"I almost hit you there." Link dodged to the side, swinging his sword to aim for Loft's ribs.
"But you didn't. I-" Loft cut off, freezing for a moment as his eyes glanced off to the side. Link attempted to stop his swing, seeing his opponent distracted, but his momentum was too great. Loft snapped back at the last second and managed to put his sword up to block the hit, but his balance was off. With a yelp, Loft tumbled to the side and off the platform. A whistle sounded and a flash of scarlet flew downwards. Within seconds, Crimson was back on the landing pad, Loft safely on his back. A pensive look marred his normally carefree face.
With a loud thump, a frowning Revali landed next to him, shaking his head. "You got distracted!" Loft blinked down at him.
"I suppose I did." Loft's expression didn't ease.
Impa, recognizing that the duel was finished, gestured to the crowd and made the rito disperse.
Revali gazed closer at Loft, his eyes flickering to Zelda and Impa as they came closer, unspoken questions on their face, he sighed, "Well, it looks like Link won this one. Princess, forgive me if I come off too blunt, but did you have a reason for your visit?"
Zelda blinked, "Yes, actually. I have a letter to deliver to your chieftain. It pertains to the decision on what to do with the divine beasts."
"I see. I will guide you to the chief's house. Loft, why don't you go flying with Gebe and Sathe while I take care of this?" The hero nodded and Revali turned back to the princess, "Please follow me."
Link spoke quietly to Impa before she got too far, "Would you mind if I stayed behind? I'd like to talk to Loft."
Impa raised an eyebrow at him, but shook her head, "I'll watch over the princess during the meeting."
He nodded his thanks and made his way over to Loft, who was surrounded by Gebe, Sathe, and Pratha.
"-don't think you should be flying quite yet." Loft said to Sathe.
"But you said I could!" Sathe argued.
"I said we could go flying when your wing was better."
Sathe looked ready to throw a temper tantrum, so Pratha stepped in, "Young lady, you need to heal that wing of yours. There will be no flying for today."
"But mom!" Sathe protested.
"Can we go now, Loft?" Gebe asked, making his sister shoot him a dirty look.
"Well-" Loft cut off as Pratha narrowed her eyes at her son.
"You're not going anywhere yet, Gebe. You still haven't finished your chores."
"I'll do it when I get back!"
"No, you'll do them now." Pratha walked away with her two chicks, each complaining about her being unfair. Loft released a relieved sigh.
"Do you need some time alone?" Link asked, making the other hero jump.
"Link! No, no. Well, maybe. Not completely alone, but away from everybody. I- that doesn't make much sense, does it?"
"You want to be away from people asking for your attention, but not so far away that you're surrounded by silence?"
Loft looked at him, surprised, "Yeah, exactly. Usually I'd go to the Flight Range with Revali to escape for a bit, but he's a bit busy right now."
"Master," Fi flipped out of the sword and turned her gaze towards Loft, "You are showing signs of distress and weariness. I advise that you find a quiet place to recover."
Loft tilted his head at Fi, "I just said I don't want to be alone…" He trailed off as he followed Fi's gaze that landed on Link, "Oh. Link, do you want to go to the Flight Range? There are targets set up there and we can test to see who is the better archer. Considering you beat me with the sword, I feel the need to challenge you to archery." Fi disappeared into the sword.
Link arched his brow, but nodded, "It's only fair to give you a rematch."
"Perfect. We can ride Crimson there." Loft stood up and easily lifted himself onto his loftwing. Link hesitated only briefly before following.
Once they were in the air, Loft turned to face him, "I honestly can't believe that I fell off the platform. There was so much space to fight and I've had to fight on a strand of rope before!"
"Strand of rope?" Link repeated, confused, watching as the snow peaked mountains loomed closer.
"Yeah. The rope was attaching two ledges together and I had to get to the other side. I couldn't see the bottom of the chasm it stretched across and a bokoblin didn't want to wait for me to cross, so it balanced with me. Those creatures can be agile when they want to be. You can't lose focus with them, or there's a very high chance you'll get hit in the head."
"So why did you lose focus during our fight?" Link asked, simply curious.
Loft looked up, clearly debating on what to tell him. He sighed as the Flight Range came into view, "I heard a voice or was it a feeling? I'm not sure. I got the sense that I'd be going back when a decision was made."
Link straightened at the news, "A decision was made?"
Loft nodded as Crimson landed on the platform to the Flight Range. Climbing off his loftwing he explained, "It's talking about the decision about the divine beasts. It's a weird sensation of knowing that I'm going to return to my own time soon, but not being able to know exactly when." He shook his head, "Oh well, it doesn't matter. I'm here to unwind and I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. It's still a ways into the future." He looked at Link, "Have you ever practiced here?"
Link smiled a bit, "No. To be honest, I tended to avoid this area because I knew Revali trained here often. Considering his dislike of me, I didn't want to give him more reasons to be hostile to me."
"Hmm." Link could tell from that single syllable that Loft knew exactly what he meant, "Well, regardless, we are here for a rematch. Revali was telling me that many hylians carry a paraglider, do you have one on you?"
"Perfect! I have a sailcloth so we can use those." Loft shook his head, "It's a shame that you don't have loftwings here."
They strapped their bows and arrows to an easily accessible area and stepped towards the edge.
"So, what I'd suggest is we reach as high as the wind will carry us on opposite sides of that rock. After that, we'll fall for as long as we dare and strike as many targets as we can. I'm assuming we'll be falling for a good five-ish seconds. Is that agreeable?" Link asked.
"As long as you're truthful." Loft said, a smirk on his face.
"Always," Link raised a challenging eyebrow, "I presume since you're a hero, you'll be truthful as well." At Loft's laugh and nod, they jumped off the wooden platform and unfurled their cloth. The wind whipped around them as they rose until they could go no farther.
"READY?" Link yelled over the gale. At Loft's nod, they folded their respective cloths and pulled out their bow and arrow, gravity swiftly taking hold of them. Link lost sight of Loft almost immediately and focused on the targets, rapidly releasing arrow after arrow. His last arrow flew straight, breaking a target as he grabbed his paraglider and almost immediately slowed to a stop, the wind once more lifting him in the air.
He glided towards the Flight Range and paused, staring incredulously when Loft came in view. The poor man in green was holding tightly onto his sailcloth as it made him spin in circles. When he'd gone high enough, Loft folded the cloth and whistled. Crimson flew by Link, starting him enough to remember that he was supposed to land on the platform. As soon as his feet touched the ground, Crimson landed with a flourish.
"Are you alright?" Link asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Believe it or not, but that happens quite often. Normally, I simply need to go straight up, so the turning isn't an issue. But trying to make it turn left or right can send it into spirals." Loft shook his head slightly before smirking, "So how many did you hit?"
"Seven. How about you?"
"HA!" Loft grinned down at him smugly, "I, who have been trained by the master of archery himself, the great Revali, hit six targets!"
Link blinked at him, "Wha-? Why do you sound so triumphant?"
"Yeah, I know it's not as many as yours, but I have been practicing my archery skills with Revali these past two week. I beat my personal best of five today. Plus seeing your confused face was priceless." Loft said, hopping off his loftwing, "I bet that if we had another rematch that involved riding Crimson, I'd win."
"Hmmm." Link turned to face the giant red bird, a thoughtful expression crossing his face, "We could do that. We could have a time limit and see how many targets we can shoot during that time before trading off."
Loft tapped his fingers, "We could. But before we do, I want to see how well you can fire an arrow on Crimson while he's flying. Would you like to practice to make the competition more fair?"
Link glanced at Loft, but could only read sincerity from him, "I'll take you up on that offer." He grabbed more arrows before climbing onto the loftwing and listening to Loft's instructions on how to guide the bird.
"Crimson is pretty good at knowing where his riders want to go. Granted I'm the one usually riding him, but my Zelda has remarked that he seems to know where she wants to go even before she does." Loft patted his loftwing and backed up, allowing them to take to the air. Link spent the first couple of minutes adjusting to Crimson's movements and smiled when the loftwing responded to him fluidly. Grabbing the bow, he notched an arrow and observed his targets. Considering he had practiced shooting on horseback, it wasn't too difficult to use those skills on a loftwing. After a few tries, he was nailing the targets dead center.
"Alright, show off! I think you practiced enough." Loft's voice reached him, making Link turn to see the green-clothed knight smiling at him.
"I didn't think I'd pick it up that quickly." Link said, guiding Crimson back to the landing, "It's similar to riding a horse."
"Only you go up and down as well as side to side."
Revali's voice cut in, barely heard over the rush of wind accompanying his arrival, "So you're flying with Crimson to see how the true warriors fight, are you?"
"Revali." Link nodded in his direction, making the rito raise an eyebrow, but nod back.
Loft stood there with a thoughtful expression on his face, "Revali, you're a strong rito, aren't you?"
Revali looked at him with narrowed eyes, "... One of the strongest."
"I've been wondering whether you or Crimson are the better flyer."
"It's me." Revali looked affronted, "We already tested this."
"True." Loft nodded, "But we tested it with me on Crimson's back. I highly doubt you'd be able to outmaneuver my loftwing if you also had to carry someone on your back."
"Are you insinuating," Revali asked slowly, "That I would be unable to defeat your loftwing in any race?"
"No, no, of course not. I'm just saying it's a shame we couldn't test it out."
"...Truly a shame." Revali eyes turned into slits, "I know what you're doing and it's not working."
"But," Link cutting in had both of them looking at him, "It would be good strength training and if you were ever in the situation where you needed to get someone out of danger quickly, you'd know how to maneuver so they wouldn't fall off."
"Exactly." Loft said.
"I guess we'll never know for sure." Link shrugged.
Revali glared at them for several seconds before his expression eased, "You know, you're right. I really should know how to save someone who's in danger." Loft and Link looked at each other in surprise, "Why don't we throw Link off this platform and I go 'rescue' him. It'll be a practice of… trust."
"On second thought," Loft said to Link, "I think we'll be just fine, timing it with Crimson."
"No, I insist." Revali smirked.
Loft turned around and shook his head, "Your tone of voice coupled with your expression spells trouble with a capital T. Caution MUST be exercised in this case."
"You wound me. I'll have you know-" As they continued to banter, Link watched with wide eyes. Not only was Loft being sarcastic to the rito, but Revali was bantering back without the intent to assert his arrogance.
Regardless of the situation, it seemed that Revali was a touch softer, personality wise, when Loft was around. If only Loft could stay in Hyrule forever.
"Welcome, Princess Zelda." Urbosa stepped forward, engulfing the hylian in her arms.
"It's so good to see you again." Zelda said, hugging her back fiercely. Nearby, smiling at their reunion, Impa stood, along with Link and Woods.
Upon news of the party's impending arrival reaching the gerudo, Woods very eagerly volunteered to go meet them at Kara Kara Bazaar and escort them on the rest of their journey to the town.
When childish giggling from the entrance of the village made him flinch and wiped the smile off his face, it became evident why he'd been so happy to shoulder the task.
"Woodsie is back!" One of the little girls crowding the entrance announced, "Come play! I've made a mud cake!" Another joined in, quickly followed by, "No me! Mommy got me a new dolly I want to show him!"
Turning to distract himself, he looked up at Link, who was now staring at the guarded gate, wearing the most disgruntled expression he'd ever seen.
Tatl giggled, ignoring the sharp look Woods sent her.
"Not funny." He grumbled to her.
Link frowned down at his friend, "This is so irritating."
Woods grimaced, "Irritating? Trust me, if you don't wish to be irritated then you do NOT want to go in there."
As if proving his words, more shouts of, "Woodsie?" and "Why aren't you coming in?" were heard.
"They're calling for you~!" Tatl spoke in a sing-song voice.
A shudder shook the hero's body as he grabbed Link's hand and waved to Urbosa, "Link and I are going to have a sand-seal race!"
"Woods, be nicer to Link." Tatl mock-scolded.
Urbosa chuckled as they passed, "Well princess, shall we go and spectate?"
Woods glanced up at Link as they walked, "Let's hurry, we're going to cut around the town, I'm going to rent us two sand seals then we'll be off to have our race. The quicker the better." Woods shuddered, "There's only so much I can take from being surrounded by only women."
"Oi, that's not very nice!" Tatl protested despite the giggles escaping her mouth, "I thought it was rather refreshing."
"Of course you did. You weren't the one constantly sought out." Woods grumbled.
Link looked over his shoulder to see Zelda giving him a nod, walking with Urbosa to the small hill. Woods cut around a corner and walked towards the gerudo guarding the entrance.
"Wait here. I won't be long." He ran past the guard who didn't spare him a glance. True to his word, not even a minute later, Woods walked out with two giant sand seals following him along with several cooing gerudo women.
Link's lips twitched at Woods' sullen look, Tatl giggling beside him.
Woods in haste threw one of the reins to Link, slammed his shield on the ground, and let his seal take him to the starting position. As the gaggle of women looked to Link with predatory intent now that the green clothed hero was gone, the hylian champion quickly followed suit.
One of the organizers laughed as they came up, "At least this time he brought a friend to race against instead of trying to beat his own record!" The other lady gestured them forward.
Link looked around, surprised to see many more Gerudo gathered on the rocks around them.
"Don't we have to pay?" He asked.
"Nah, Urbosa will. She knows I come here to get away. It's her way to apologize for all the fun she's having at my expense, I think,"
Urbosa strutted up on cue, grinning at them, "Are you prepared, boys?" When the two nodded at her, she took a deep breath, "Well then, ready. Set. GO!" At her word, they flicked the reins and sped off.
Link hunched low, flicking the reins once more as he leaned back. Slowly, but steadily he passed Woods, keeping to the edge of the turns, narrowly avoiding scraping the ruins.
"You cheater!" Woods yelled at him, "You've done this before!"
"So have you!" He grinned back.
"Not fair! I only learned recently. You've had longer to practice!"
Link's laughter was his only reply.
"That's it!" Woods dug in his bag. He looked entirely too triumphant as he pulled out a slingshot.
"You wouldn't." Link narrowed his eyes at his fellow hero.
"Oh, I would." Woods smirked as he held the slingshot in hand, pulling back the sling with some sort of seed in it.
"Your aim is going to be horrible. There's no way-" Link cut off with a yelp as he ducked, avoiding the projectile. His eyes became slits at Woods' smug look. Grabbing his sword, he held it like it was a stick, "Bring it on!"
Woods whooped before he hastily guided his sand seal to the left so they didn't run into a rock jutting out of the sand. Weaving through the ruins, Link saw him set up his next shot, switching between watching where he was going and getting ready to hit the ammunition back. He swung his sword and nailed the seed back at Woods. The young boy jerked forward to dodge it, almost falling down from the motion. Link smirked at Woods, one eyebrow raised in challenge.
"You smug-" Woods cut off as he saw Link quickly scoop up small stones in his other hand. Lips pursed, he placed a seed in his slingshot, waiting for the right opportunity.
Link threw one of the stones, frowning as Woods gracefully dodged it.
"HA! You'll have to try better than that!" Woods released a pellet, both of the heroes eyes widening as it hit the rump of Link's mount.
"Uh-oh." Link barely had time to utter those words before the sand seal kicked up its speed, making him hold on for dear life.
Woods watched him go with wide eyes, "Come on!" He urged his sand seal, "We can't let him beat us like that!" The young hero knew that if Link had less control, he'd be screaming. Woods half contemplated using his sling shot on his own animal, but immediately dismissed it. Just as they turned the corner, Woods stashed his weapon and crouched low, knowing he was smaller and therefore had less wind resistance. The spectators came in view and a wild cheer rose as they came closer.
The roar of the crowd surrounded them as they crossed the finish line.
"Well, I'll be." Urbosa shook her head as she walked up with the princess, "I don't know who won. It looked like you guys tied."
"Did you have fun?" Zelda asked, a grin on her face.
"We did. It was a nice, clean race." Woods smiled back.
"Clean? Really?" Urbosa asked with a raised eyebrow. "I'd expected you two would be employing every trick you could to gain the upper hand." She uttered. To that the two heroes glanced at each other guiltily, causing her to make a satisfied sound.
"Anyway Link," Urbosa said, marching up to the man in question, towering over him. She looked down with a glint in her eye, "Before you take your leave, may I have a moment to speak to you privately?" She grabbed the hero by arm and dragged him a short distance away from the others.
Woods noticed Zelda stiffening, "What's gotten you worried, princess?"
"Ah-! No, it's nothing…"
As they watched Urbosa grew somewhat animated but soon enough she and Link walked back, the chief looking… unusually perplexed. "Well, it seems like these two will have to settle their score another day. Our knight will be bidding us goodbye for the time being."
"Oh…" Was all Zelda could manage to say, clearly none too happy but not surprised.
"Have no fear princess, I'm completely confident in all those gathered to keep you safe until we meet again at the bazaar." Link told her, evidently missing the point.
Valedictions were exchanged and Link went on his way. With several gerudo loitering about, the princess's was not the only sigh heard, causing her to pout.
"Why that face princess? Surely it is no surprise for two such legendary heroes to enjoy considerable popularity, is it?" Urbosa grinned as Zelda's eyes lowered, evidently displeased to have been caught, "Or is it perhaps that you wish out knight all to yourself?"
Immediately Zelda flushed red, "U-Urbosa! Don't say things like that…"
"Uh." The chief uttered.
"What… what has you surprised?" The blonde asked concernedly.
Urbosa leaned in with a smirk, "Nothing it's just… that was not a no. Just a little while ago, you would have told me I was completely off."
Zelda glanced around, "Can we… can we talk about this later, away from the crowd?"
"Oh, we most certainly shall!" The gerudo said with unmasked enthusiasm.
In a whisper, Zelda asked, "What is it you were talking to him about?"
"Nothing to worry about, princess." Urbosa shook her head with an amused smile, "Well, I believe you traveled all this way for a reason. Let's head to my abode."
They made their way through the town and the moment they stepped into the room, Urbosa spun around with a gleeful, eager look. "Alright, fess up, what's going on with you and your knight?"
The gerudo champion ignored Impa's mumbled, "Not very tactful."
Zelda flinched, "I thought we were going to talk about the reason I came here."
"Exactly. Isn't that what's eating at you most urgently? We're alone now, so let it out."
"Alone? But…" The princess glanced at Woods very briefly but it did not go unnoticed by him.
"What? You don't want me to know you're in love with the hero?" He said, laconically.
Urbosa burst into laughter as Zelda flushed red and sputtered, "Ho- Where'd you get that notion?!"
Woods frowned, "I'm young, not blind."
Zelda sighed and turned to Urbosa, "Well, this seems hardly necessary since apparently everybody knows already but fine, I'll say it. I'm in love-"
Anything else Zelda may have been about to add was pushed aside as Urbosa pulled her up and swept her off her feet into a hug, spinning around with her, "Haha! I knew it! My little bird is finally taking flight!"
"Ahh! Urbosa! Please…!" The princess protested her embarrassment.
The chief put Zelda down and gently brushed her hair, "I couldn't help it. I'm so happy for you."
Zelda turned to Woods, "You'll… keep this a secret, won't you?"
The boy rolled his eyes, "This is a secret to nobody. But sure. I didn't tell him about the other princess, why would I tell him about you?"
Zelda nodded, grateful, then turned to the chief, "Speaking of that, Urbosa… I'm at my wits end. I don't know how to get Link to see me as more than his charge. I've tried cheering him on, I even went shield surfing on an active volcano, I just… what do I do?"
The Gerudo blinked, taken aback, "You shield surfed where? …nevermind, princess I am sure there is no need for such extremes. Worry not, you've come to the right place."
Impa's eyes narrowed, turning to whisper to Woods, "Why do I feel like whatever she comes up with will be a bad idea?"
"Probably because it is." Woods mumbled back.
"Thanks Urbosa, I knew you and Impa would both have my back. It's… it's good to have someone to trust." Zelda trailed off.
"Alright then, scholar that you are, surely you've heard about a special course we have in this town-"
"No." Woods interrupted, "Not going anywhere near that, see you all later."
"Don't make me hear anything about you trying to get into the bar again with that silly cow mask!" Urbosa called after him as he scampered off.
A few minutes later as Woods made his best to avoid unwanted attention by the townsfolk, Tatl hummed.
"What?" The boy asked.
"Something just occurred to me." The fairy answered with a giggle.
"Okay, let's hear it."
She whispered it to him, to which the young hero's eyes widened "Oh-! You're right! We should definitely do something about that!"
Quickly concocting a plan, he positioned himself near the place where Zelda and the others were attending class and waited. When the other gerudo women finally exited, he grinned and walked towards the entrance, ready to pounce, but froze when he heard,
"Princess," Impa was saying, "There has been something on your mind since we left the castle. What's wrong?"
Zelda hesitated, sounding downtrodden, "I- What do you suppose my father thinks of Wanderer?"
Woods eyebrows lifted, "Wanderer? Why would she ask about that?" This did not seem like a conversation he could just walk in on.
"Wanderer?" Urbosa pondered, "He seems to enjoy being around him."
"King Rhoam may appreciate being around a past king that he admires and be excited to pass on what he knows to him." Impa said.
"You… you don't think he'd rather have Wanderer as his successor, rather than me?" Zelda questioned, her voice quiet.
"Of course not!" Impa stated immediately, "He really adores you. The reason he's so different with Wanderer is because he's a historical figure your father seems to have idolized as everything a king should aspire to be. And Wanderer isn't going to be here forever, so King Rhoam is spending as much time with him as he can, while trying to juggle his kingly duties."
"Listen to your advisor princess. Your father loves you an overwhelming amount, never doubt this." Urbosa added, "Don't forget the reason why he pushed you so hard was both for the safety of his kingdom but first and foremost for your own."
"Thank you, I-"
Woods heard footsteps coming from where he'd entered and he swiftly walked further into the training ground and pretended to be examining the weapons. One gerudo walked with a purpose into the room and shortly after, Urbosa walked out with her warrior.
Going back to the room, he paused to see if the topic had switched to less delicate matters. It had.
"That lesson really was extremely basic stuff." The sheikah stated.
"Impa please, you could offend our hosts." Zelda chided, "Besides, I feel like I've learned a lot."
Impa snorted, "Hopefully not too much, I still can't believe what that student said," and here she affected her voice to sound more gruff, " I would challenge to a fight anyone who dares try and steal my voe from me and humiliate my opponent right in front of him, so he will know who is the superior mate!" She let out a laugh.
Zelda stayed quiet.
"...Princess, please, tell me you're not thinking of fighting Princess Mipha."
"Uh-? N-no, of course not… A-anyway I've already got more than I could hope for out of this trip." Woods could hear the princess shuffle her notes, "What about you Impa? Anything you wish?"
That, Woods knew, would be the perfect cue, and predictably Impa did respond by saying, "Thank you, princess, but I have no wants, I'll be happy to continue following you."
The two turned around startled, none more than Impa, finding herself confronted with Woods pointing his finger at her and wearing… a mask bearing the sheikah symbol?
"This eye cannot be fooled." He declared.
"What… what are you doing with that mask?!" Impa asked, confused.
"Indeed, what is this about?" Urbosa asked, having returned with her guard in tow.
Woods put his hands on his hips, "The mask of truth sees your secrets like you were screaming them to the world: you intensely desire to go to the spa!"
"Wh- Absurd! I'm an actual trained sheikah, I don't believe for a second you can see through me like that!" She protested with mounting irritation.
"Do you wish to go to the spa Impa?" Zelda asked.
"N-no, I have no desire to go anywhere but where you go, princess." The scrutinized girl stammered back.
"More lying." Woods sentenced.
"Impa, if you'd like to go it's fine, Urbosa and her guards will watch over me." The blonde reassured.
"Princess, no I-"
Tatl buzzed up to her, "Just admit to it and go. Trust me, you don't want him to start digging deeper."
"I… I still don't believe he can see my secrets BUT if the princess wills it, then I shall go to the spa." Impa announced trying desperately to save face. When she received a nod from Zelda, she scurried off.
Immediately (and concernedly), the latter turned to Woods, "Can… can you really see someone's secrets with that mask?"
To her relief, he took it off, "Not at all. At most it can get people to spontaneously speak things they would normally keep secret. She resisted it quite well."
"Then how did you-"
"She just looked like she's been stressed and could really use some rest." He replied, anticipating her question.
Urbosa laughed loudly and fondly, "Very well done!" she said, gently patting Woods' head.
Zelda's gaze remained on the mask, "Still, this is a very interesting artifact. I wonder how-"
"Chief," The guard called out, "I'm sorry to insist but… what should be done?"
Urbosa sighed, "Right, I suppose it falls on me to deal with this ridiculous nonsense…"
"B-but Lady Urbosa, there's been multiple reports-"
The chief shook her head in annoyance, "Ask yourself this, how often do ghosts move into an inhabited town and make a bother of themselves in broad daylight?"
"A ghost?" Zelda chimed in, "It admittedly does not sound like typical behavior for one… but it could be an anomaly! That would make this very interesting to research."
Urbosa looked at her incredulously for just a moment, "Princess… this is probably nothing, someone leaping to the wrong conclusion."
"Well, the only way to find out is to investigate, isn't it?" The blonde retorted.
Sighing in defeat, Urbosa turned to the guard, "Lead the way."
The first incident had occurred by one of the gates. One of the guards tried to step out to find the source of an odd, haunting sound only to fall flat on her face. The other moved to help but she too fell into the sand. As they discovered, their feet had somehow been tied together with light but robust strings of rope. Urbosa and Zelda listened to their testimony. Woods for his part found the whole thing quite amusing.
Strange as it was for them to have been caught off guard like this, so far no one had thought of a ghost. More alarmingly, however, the guards at the other entrances had also fallen victim to similar humiliating traps. One had her spear she had put down for just a moment replaced with a different one that instead of a blade had a banana tied at its end (Urbosa and Zelda both immediately thought of the Yiga, but this -really- didn't seem their style) and another found herself stepping in fresh sand seal dung that had no business being there.
Next was the market place. A vendor had spotted one of the fruit she was selling placed right in front of one of her colleagues, half-eaten. Naturally, the accusation of theft was raised. However, during the resulting altercation, another vendor noticed some of her wares were now on sale on the stall of the first one. This continued happening until all sellers were eventually involved. In fact, the last of these happened right in the chief's presence: one of the owners at some point somehow 'acquired' a ruby circlet. It seemingly appeared on top of her voluminous hair at a moment when no one was looking at her. As if on cue, the jeweler came out of her shop, complaining that someone had left banana peels all over her floor, causing her to slip, and seeing the circlet she promptly joined the accusations of thievery.
Zelda was visibly confused. The mystery clearly enthralled her, but she couldn't fathom Urbosa's reaction to all this. One would have expected the gerudo chief to be alarmed or furious, instead she seemed… constantly on the verge of laughter. Not only that, she also would suddenly turn her head around as if distracted by something or… hiding something?
With the chief's help, all the vendors were pacified (thankfully all that was missing was some fruit, any other wares had just been moved). One vendor, in gratitude, gifted her chief a voltfruit. But that was when the events reached their weirdest. Throughout all of this, some of the younger gerudo girls had been pestering 'Woodsie', some for him to protect them from the mean ghost, others asking for him to come play husband-and-wife with them. During one moment when nobody's attention had been on them, as they argued who would one day get to marry Woodsie, the gaggle found themselves targeted by a veritable hail of creepy crawlies. It was like the content of a box full of bugs and spiders had been thrown at them. Naturally, they scattered in every possible direction, screaming in abject horror.
Woods had the biggest grin on his face… until he realized both Zelda and Urbosa had their eyes on him. "What?" He fidgeted, "It's weird sure, but at least they're not all over me anymore."
"Mhm…" Urbosa agreed, "Awfully convenient for you. Say, 'Woodsie', it suddenly occurs to me you mentioned dealing with ghosts before, didn't you? That you had ways of seeing them?"
Woods went rigid, "O-oh…did I? Yeah, I guess you have a point, let me try one of my masks." He rummaged a bit and pulled out a rather grotesque thing, a dark grey wire mesh mask that left most of his face exposed except for his eyes, hidden behind two large red ones. He made a show of looking around, "Mh, can't see anything out of the ordinary, sorry."
"How unfortunate. It's odd though," Urbosa said pensively, "I thought you'd chased that ghost in the desert during your first adventure, the one in which you didn't have magical masks."
"Y-yeah, that's right, this was the only one I got back then, the… ghost-sight mask."
Urbosa did not look at all convinced, however unexpectedly she smirked and let Woods off the hook, turning instead to the guard that had led them to the various incidents, "You mentioned multiple reports, is there anything else?"
"There is… one more thing. It was not deemed as urgent since no one person was involved but… it's perhaps the most grave offense in all this." That piqued everyone's curiosity and they followed the guard to the throne room.
Woods immediately fought to contain his amusement. The Thunder Helm no longer rested on the dais. Instead it was on the head of a mannequin. A male mannequin.
"This is absolutely outrageous." The guard bristled behind them as everyone in the room watched Urbosa approach the mannequin, "Be it a ghost or something else, no one can be allowed to desecrate our most honored relic in this manner, I swear I'll find the fiend and-oof!"
They turned to see her sprawled on the ground, "Th-the ghost shoved me!" She shouted, her bravado having evaporated completely.
Chuckling, Urbosa came back to help her up, "I think our ghost is trying to tell you, to lie down and relax. I'll see to this situation, you can take the rest of the day off."
"But Lady Urbosa-"
"No buts. I recommend the spa, you decide though."
None too happy but clearly dismissed, the guard left.
"So… what do we do?" Zelda asked.
Urbosa picked the helm up from the mannequin and put it back in its place, "For now, let's retreat to my room, it will be easier to think of something away from all this confusion."
They ascended to the floor above. Once there, Zelda pressured, "You sounded so assured when you sent that guard away, did you really not have a plan already?"
"A plan? I wouldn't say so, no." Urbosa took a bite out of the voltfruit she had been offered back at the market.
Then suddenly she spun and chucked the fruit against the wall on her left.
Except the fruit never hit the wall, rather an unexpected obstacle found on its path, smashing into a person everyone else had somehow failed to notice, a person wearing a positively ugly mask: the hylian champion Link.
Zelda sputtered, "Wha- How?! L-"
Urbosa quickly put a hand on Zelda's mouth to stop her from shouting a very famous voe's name, "Let's not call out for more attention than we would like, should we?"
Link for his part seemed just as agitated at having been spotted, "I- Woods! What gives?!"
The younger hero stuttered, "It-it doesn't work on paranoid people!"
"Excuse me?" Urbosa struck him with a withering look.
"Ah, I mean, people that are exceptionally observant and with remarkable situational awareness." He quickly amended.
"Being chief of a village that neighbors with a clan of assassins who hate you will do that." She considered.
"Why didn't you warn me?!" Link protested.
Woods raised his hands, both in defense and exasperation, "It slipped my mind! And then you were gone."
The gerudo grinned, "Was this the real reason you and Tatl sent Impa to the spa?"
"Yes! We thought if anyone-"
"Can somebody tell me what is going on?" Zelda demanded.
"Link is wearing one of my masks." Woods explained, "It makes him so plain that it's impossible for most people to take notice of his presence, unless something forces their attention on him, like Urbosa did by having us follow that fruit as it impacted against him."
"So that's how it is." Urbosa mused, "Honestly, I thought Zelda would find herself seeing a smashed voltfruit hanging off an invisible person." She chuckled, "I just couldn't believe you were actually fine going back to the bazaar after you declined my solution. I should have known better."
"Wait, are you saying Link was the ghost? He was the one behind it all?" Said Zelda in clear disbelief at the notion that her stoic and serious knight could have done any of this. She must have been unaware he had a mischievous side, let alone one of this magnitude.
Woods seemed to sense the unasked question, "I… kinda asked him to prank the town in return for borrowing the mask. I didn't provide any specifics though, and I have to say: I'm impressed with the results."
"And you could see him the whole time? Why didn't you say anything? When did you first notice him?" The princess asked Urbosa.
"Why did I keep quiet? Because this was the most fun this place has been in forever!" She explained, in-between laughter, "But you had better refund those vendors you robbed."
Link raised his hands, "Upon checking their purses, they'll find that everything missing has been paid off."
"Now that's a class act." Urbosa smiled, "As for when I first saw him, princess, it was at the market."
Zelda was visibly relieved. Obviously, Woods figured, because that meant it was unlikely Link found out about her feelings for him. "That's why you would suddenly look this and that way." The princess noted.
"Yes, so Link wouldn't realize I could see him. It was lucky he wasn't looking my way when I first noticed him. My eyes must have been wide as saucers seeing the Hylian champion running around the market square with no one reacting to his presence."
"I wish I could have seen him creating all this mischief." Zelda mumbled to herself.
"But you know, Link. Tampering with the Thunder Helm can be considered a grave crime." Urbosa sighed dramatically, "Where did you even find that male mannequin?"
"Sorry, it's a secret." He stated.
"That's not helping your case. The helm is a hallowed symbol and there are severe consequences to anyone who even touches it."
"Wouldn't it be best to leave it that a ghost did it?" He said nervously.
She shook her head, "Nice try. But I'm going to ask you to hand over that mask now."
"You want me to walk out of your room like this, perfectly visible?"
"Visible yes… but not like this. Your punishment will be to make your exit the way I suggested you could make your entrance. I'd say that's lenient."
Zelda looked confused, while Link's body language communicated his displeasure at the notion, "I think I'll pass."
Urbosa gave a hum, "I could probably snatch it off your face… but you're a nimble one, and I've got one better." She turned around, "Princess?"
"Y-yes?" Zelda said, not knowing what Urbosa was asking of her.
"He's your sworn knight. If you order him, he'll have to take the mask off."
"Ah, I… but must we really?" The princess tried, obviously not wanting to make an enemy of Link. However, when Urbosa winked at her, unseen by Link her back to him, Zelda relaxed and heaved a sigh.
It was clear to all present that she'd decided to trust her mother figure on this, Link included. He quickly made a subtle hand gesture to Woods, "Ah, the emergency signal."
"I'm sorry Link, but-"
A loud chime sounded off just behind Zelda's head, causing her to spin around, startled. She found herself looking at a familiar yellow fairy.
"Oh? Did I hiccup? My bad."
Woods smirked and gave his companion a satisfied nod.
Zelda turned back to- "Link? Where…?"
"Our focus left him, so now we can't see him again." Woods explained.
"Link! Urbosa, where is he?" Zelda asked.
"Currently out on the balcony… aaand he's leapt off."
Mipha smiled at the three younger zoras' stupor.
"A swimming competition between us and the new zora that came in with Princess Zelda?" Gaddison frowned thoughtfully.
"Of course we accept!" Bazz announced, starry eyed, "We'd never turn down a challenge!"
"Why us though?" Rivan questioned, earning a reproaching look from his leader, "I mean, we're good but…" he left unspoken that there would be better swimmers among the fully grown zora.
"Our guest is not much older than you are. When he asked me if there was anybody he could race with, I thought to look among our youth, for the sake of a fair competition." Mipha responded, then added with a smirk, "And who better than the Big Bad Bazz Brigade to rise to the challenge?"
"Excellent choice princess, you won't regret it!" Bazz exclaimed.
Upon the time decided for the race, all participants and more than a few spectators convened at the reservoir lake, where buoys had been placed by Mipha's request to establish a course which would begin and end at the pier facing the domain.
On her way, Mipha was about to walk past two zora girls intently observing the contestants, Marot and Kodah, when she heard something that halted her.
"He's handsome in an exotic way. Those abs and legs..." Kodah trailed off, "But I can't believe the rumors that the princess has been treating him affectionately. How can she do that to Linny?!"
Mipha quickly shook off the mix of embarrassment and amusement she felt. Walking past them she said, "Appearances can be deceiving."
Behind her, Kodah made a strangled noise, "Princess! I-..."
Mipha held back a laugh, marching on as Kodah's words to her friend faded with distance, "Why didn't you warn me she was behind us?"
She walked close enough to hear Bazz telling the mysterious newcomer, "I hope you don't mind me saying but… you're quite unlike any zora I've ever seen. What's your name?"
"Of course, it's no problem." He said in a voice that surprised the brigade due to its weird reverb, like he couldn't quite control the water in his esophagus, "I've been going by Mikau."
Rivan tilted his head, "Like the lake?" He questioned, pointing in the direction of said body of water.
'Mikau' nodded and seemed to consider the matter closed.
As the athletes prepared to start the race, Mipha wished them luck before she went to join princess Zelda, her advisor, and Wolf. Before she could reach them, she found herself accosted by Muzu and Seggin. On the spot, she decided to keep her distance from Zelda, lest any conversation with Muzu give away their little secret. A quick glance at the hylian princess rewarded her with an understanding look.
"I'm surprised you decided to attend," The princess said to her mentor, "I don't remember the last time I've seen you at one of these events."
"Well princess, it's not every day we receive a visit from a zora hailing from outside the domain." The counselor answered, "Regrettable that one of our distant kin had to be re-introduced to us through the hylians. Us zora should stick together. But I won't let these circumstances color my impression of this young fellow."
"Ah, there they go." Seggin informed.
The whole crowd gasped as the foreign zora shot forward with amazing speed. "How in the… that's incredible! If he can keep up this speed, the first place is already decided!" Muzu exclaimed.
He was, however, mistaken. Though the mysterious zora seemed capable of maintaining his unbelievable speed, it soon became evident he could not handle tight curves with it… and strangely enough, he appeared unable to reduce his speed just slightly. When met with a bend he couldn't take at full speed, he would nearly come to a stop as he re-oriented himself.
"What is he doing? Is he really only able to swim extremely fast or extremely slow?" Muzu wondered, "It's like his body is shaped for speed but he has little to no experience taking advantage of it."
Mipha bit her lip at how close to the truth he'd come.
"Perhaps," Seggin began, "It is a matter of different environments. Those jet black eyes of his seem like they are meant for the depths of the ocean. Not as much need to make tight curves there like in a river's bed."
"Ahh… that must be it." Muzu nodded, "Our ancestors too lived in the ocean for quite some time before we returned to our ancestral home and drove out the degenerate savage breed infesting these rivers. I wonder how he'd manage a waterfall."
"He's never swam up one," Mipha answered, "I promised I'd teach him how, later on."
"Very thoughtful and forthcoming. Say princess, you seem to already have become good friends with this foreigner." Muzu casually said.
Mipha tilted her head, "Yes Muzu, I have. Is something the matter?"
"Oh, not at all your highness, mere curiosity, I hope you'll pardon-"
Once again, the whole crowd gasped, but this time not in wonder. Despite his difficulty around bends, the strange zora had gained quite the advantage over the others. Now this was quickly disappearing as he shook his head in dizziness, having rammed it straight into a buoy while trying to correct his trajectory too hastily.
"Ow." Mipha thought, wishing she could dive in and heal any nasty bumps her dear friend may have gotten himself.
"Clumsy." Seggin sentenced.
"Now, now, you said it yourself, he's probably not used to quick tight maneuvers." The green zora chided with a hearty chuckle, "And look, your Bazz is doing quite well also, closing in to first place."
Seggin grunted, "He's been pushing himself too hard trying to catch up. Trello's son will probably pass him soon."
"Ah, you may be right. Ultimately though, it seems her highness' new friend might still make it first to the finishing line."
Muzu appeared to be in a curiously good mood. "How unusual…" Mipha dismissed the thought and focused on the race. It would have been highly inappropriate for the zora princess to cheer for a foreigner over her own subjects yet she certainly wished she could do so, especially when Zelda held no such reserve in encouraging her new 'zora escort'.
With or without her cheer, 'Mikau' did finish first and her people made a good show by whooping and applauding him (as did she, now that she could, with the result decided). Muzu too was enthusiastic, "Such a performance! Imagine what he'd manage if he were to focus his training on making sharp curves. Well princess, shall we go congratulate the winner?"
"Yes, and the other participants also," Seggin's prediction had proven true and Rivan had passed Bazz shortly before the end. She started towards the water, followed by the two older zora, "They all did very well."
"Your highness, would you happen to know anything of our new guest's social standing?" Muzu asked, "So that we may address him properly."
Mipha struggled to sound neutral as she answered, "Ah yes, you should know he is a knight."
"A knight?" Seggin asked, suddenly much more interested.
"At such a young age? Truly remarkable!" Muzu said with admiration.
"Isn't it?" Mipha held back a giggle.
Approaching the swimmers, now at rest, they heard Bazz praising the winner, "I just can't believe how fast you were back there, Mikau! Incredible!"
"Indeed, a breathtaking sight, sir knight." Muzu complimented, making the young zora's pitch black eyes blink in surprise.
"Councilor Muzu," Mipha intervened to keep things under control, "While our guest certainly deserves congratulations, I'd like to first make sure he's well. That was quite the impact against that buoy. Are you alright?"
Mikau hummed, flashing a bright fanged smile little Sidon could aspire to, which made Mipha and even Gaddison blush a little.
"Wait, you're a knight?!" Asked Bazz in awe, joined in by Rivan "That's… that's even more amazing! I mean you can't be anywhere close to a hundred years."
Mikau responded with a humble nod. Muzu seemed pleased with that, "Well, I came over to congratulate you on your win. I think I'll be taking my leave for now. I'm sure her highness will continue to demonstrate the Domain's hospitality with no need of this old fossil's assistance." He turned from the princess to Seggin, "Coming old friend?"
After giving Mikau one more look, Seggin grunted and followed Muzu as he left.
Rivan said what was on everyone's mind, "Was… was that really Muzu?"
Later that day, having discussed the matter of the invitation Princess Zelda delivered to her father and her, Mipha left the throne room smiling as she thought back of what happened after the race.
Under the pretense of helping Mikau learn how to swim up waterfalls, the Big Bad Bazz Brigade had come along to Veil Falls with Mikau and Mipha.
"I told you three that one day I would win!" Link had exclaimed to their confusion. Then he used the brigade's password (after asking the princess to briefly plug her ears) to let them realize his true identity. Their disbelieving, shocked faces were certainly worth the charade.
Unfortunately they spent longer than they meant to practicing at the waterfall and Mipha had to run back to meet Princess Zelda and her father.
With that over with, she now intended to help Link reveal the truth to the rest of the domain (a good prank ought not last too long).
She was drawn out of these thoughts by a loud ruckus. A large crowd had formed unexpectedly near one of the training areas. Curious, she went to see what this was all about, those gathered readily parting to let her through.
What she found was a surprise to say the least: 'Mikau' was seemingly having a sparring match with Seggin.
"Ah, princess." Muzu, one of the bystanders, spotted her and quickly went to stand by her side. He had left the throne room before her, once the topic of the invitation had been discussed and the conversation turned to more casual discourse.
"Our demon sergeant has decided to learn the measure of Sir Mikau's skills. I must say though, it's been a strange match so far." The counselor told her, "He's forfeited fighting using the same weapons and curiously refuses to meet Seggin's spear with his sword."
It was true, the zora sword on Link's back was still sheathed as he dodged Seggin's attacks, "Do you reckon he's trying to infuriate his opponent?"
Mipha had no idea… and this concerned her. Sure, this was Link who fought and defeated Ganon, but he was in an unfamiliar body now. What if he had let himself become overconfident?
Mipha hadn't been present when Woods instructed him on using the mask. She knew about Mikau's detachable fins, but did he have any other surprises still to reveal?
"Boy, if you mean to humiliate me because I questioned your nimbleness, know that it could cost you dearly." Seggin warned, anger seeping into his voice.
His weapon, the silverscale spear, was shaped like a crescent moon. It could be used to stab like a regular spear but also to slice. In one swift motion, Seggin feinted a thrust only to quickly raise his spear and slice it downwards. It could be a deadly attack, one Seggin probably expected his opponent to dodge still. Link did not, merely raising his arm to protect his vulnerable chest.
The crowd gasped, Mipha shut her eyes as a scream born of fear for her loved one and helplessness to protect him released itself from her. In her mind, she could already picture Link's arm ending in a bloody stump, something beyond her ability to restore.
She did not allow herself such weakness for more than a fraction of a second as she forced her eyes open again to see… "What?"
The fin on Link's arm had somehow impossibly expanded itself, resembling now by all means a shield. Seggin's arms vibrated along with his spear, as if he had slammed it against solid rock. Like everybody in the crowd, he bore a stupefied expression.
Then Link went on the offensive.
In an instant, his fin returned to its original appearance as he aggressively stepped forward, sword still sheathed, swinging his arms and fins towards his opponent.
Unprepared, Seggin tried to parry his attack, however, Link's objective was not to connect with his fists, but with his fins. Where they grazed Seggin, the unexpectedly sharp fins drew blood.
Momentarily nearly panicking, Seggin used the length of his spear to put some distance between them. Link, rather than press his advantage, graciously allowed this.
Mipha resumed breathing and sighed. Of course Link knew what he was doing. Of course she had needlessly nearly worried herself to death over him again. One of these days that reckless wonderful man would be the end of her.
"Princess excuse my indiscretion but… you have already come to care much about the well being of our guest, haven't you?" Muzu asked, observing her.
She didn't have the energy or wish to deny it, "Yes, yes I have."
Surprising her, Muzu smiled fondly, "Of course, it's in your highness' nature to be caring and protective. And this striking young man… why, I never even imagined a fight like this. Fins that become swords and shields..."
"You have not yet seen everything he has in store." Mipha said enigmatically.
"Is that so?" Muzu smirked, "Well, I believe I've seen enough to form an opinion of him. To become a knight at his age he must be a prodigy, but that alone would only take him so far. He must be an upstanding member of his society and dedicated to his training."
Of course it took Link being turned into a zora for Muzu to acknowledge his qualities, Mipha thought with a mix of amusement and irritation.
Meanwhile, after exchanging several blows, the contenders were again standing at a distance, studying each other. Suddenly, Link swung both arms forward and to the sheer incredulity of those present, launched his fins forward, spinning projectiles quickly converging towards Seggin.
The sergeant did not freeze in place this time, rather he dashed forward in between the two fins. Link quickly drew the sword on his back but it was knocked out of his hands by Seggin's spear. Unarmed and defenseless, Link's only option was to dodge Seggin's rapid attacks. It would not be as easy as before now that the sergeant was coming to know his style and had little need to worry about retaliation.
This allowed Link to stall precious few seconds as he managed to land a good kick during Seggin's onslaught of attacks. Yet the Sergeant's face displayed his assuredness of winning this match within the next couple moves. So confident he was that he paid no heed when Link swung his fist short of impacting his head… and held his arm there.
Then, once again much to the marvel of the crowd, his fins like boomerangs completed their arc, coming back and reattaching themselves to the arms they'd left. And so it was that Seggin found himself with a blade-sharp fin poised just next to his neck. "Do you yield?" Mikau asked.
Seggin squinted his eyes, hesitated, then sighed, "Aye, I yield."
Cheering erupted from the spectators.
"Absolutely astounding! What incredible abilities. A warrior like him would be an immense asset to the domain." Muzu brought a hand to his chin pensively and muttered, absorbed in his thoughts, "Should he also possess the qualities of a leader..."
And with that, Mipha suddenly understood why he had been so keen to discuss their guest's merits the whole day. But this, this just couldn't be true, could it? "Muzu… are you suggesting…?"
Muzu gave her an uncharacteristically sheepish smile, "Well, princess, it's certainly not my intention to put any pressure on you, but your highness has reached an age at which it is not unwise to start thinking about the future and with whom you may wish to venture into it. Someone to stand by your side, protect and support you. Of course there's no hurry, we have yet to truly come to know our new friend, but-"
Mipha could not maintain focus on Muzu's words any further. Thank goodness she'd realized where he was going with this before he openly said it because that may have been the only reason she managed not to burst into nigh hysterical laughter in front of everyone. She pretended to cough so she could hide her incredulous flushed face behind her hands. Muzu, of all people, was trying to set her up with Link! Was any of this actually happening? Was this some kind of incredibly realistic dream she was having?
Regaining her composure, and reassuring Muzu that she was fine, Mipha offered him a bright smile, "That's quite alright Muzu. I will take heed of your counsel and keep myself open to the idea, thank you." Oh but this was too good!
Muzu beamed back at her, "Wonderful, well then why not begin by proclaiming our winner?"
"Yes, and I'm sure there will be wounds to heal too. Furthermore, there's an announcement to make as well." She giggled at his surprised face, "Not that kind of announcement Muzu, I don't have a suit of armor hidden in my sash."
She strode up to the contestants and in a loud voice she said for all to hear, "It is time to proclaim the winner of this match." She turned to look Link in the eyes, those mesmerizing specks of the darkest night that she knew concealed the blue of the sky, and whispered to him, "And I mean the real winner."
Link nodded and brought his hands to his face. Everyone but the princess, even the brigade who knew about Mikau's real identity, found themselves gaping when a blinding light left a blond hylian in the zora warrior's place.
Mipha grabbed his wrist and raised it towards the heavens, "The winner is Link! The hero of Hyrule, who defeated the calamity!" She shouted with unconcealed joy and pride, "And the undisputed conqueror of my heart." She added in her thoughts.
Immediately she set about healing what few cuts Link had received when, "…W-what treachery is this!?" Muzu cried out.
"Councilor Muzu, you seem to have misspoken. Surely you meant trickery. After all, I clearly knew full well who our guest was. Unless you mean to accuse me of treachery along with him?" Mipha said in her most neutral yet conciliatory tone.
"O-of course not princess." He was quick to deny any accusations against her, "But… but he lied about his identity!"
Mipha tilted her head theatrically, "Did he now? As far as I can remember, Link merely asked to be called by a nickname of his choosing. He never said it was his actual name. Nor did he or anyone else ever claim he was an actual zora, hailing from a splintered tribe of ours. We merely neglected correcting these assumptions."
Laughter was beginning to be heard among the crowd, started by the members of the Big Bad Bazz Brigade but soon spreading to others.
"Assumptions? He was a zora! What…" Muzu stopped, took a breath, "Through what trickery was this possible?"
Link held up the zora mask as Mipha explained, "A mask imbued with the power of a zora warrior from the distant past. Link borrowed it from another hero that came to this time to assist us champions, like Wolf did."
Louder laughter echoed from behind the two of them. Seggin. "Well Link, that was one nasty trick you pulled on me. Explains how, from the beginning, you seemed to know my fighting style as well as you do. But that was an incredible fight and I have no shame losing to the hero that defeated the Calamity. Well played."
Muzu's expression soured further, "…since our guest is evidently more than familiar enough with the domain, I believe he has no need to be shown around. I trust princess that you'll be as punctual with your duties as these not so out of the ordinary circumstances allow." With that said he spun around and skulked away.
Concerned, Link turned to look at Mipha. She smiled reassuringly, "Oh, he'll try to make me regret this, but he will fail. Don't you worry Link, this has been a wonderful day, one I have enjoyed every minute of." Then in a whisper she added, "And it isn't over yet. I'll see you later!"
Once Seggin's wounds were healed, as the princess went to attend her duties, she wondered with a giggle if Muzu had yet thought back to their exchange right before the big reveal.
The councilor did his best to fill up her schedule for the day. But Mipha had energy and determination to spare. She powered through with speed and efficiency that, ordinarily, would surely have earned her his praise.
Even so, the sun was about to set when she found herself once again free to do as she pleased.
That she had expected, what bothered her was… she couldn't seem to find Link anywhere.
In Hyrule Castle it wouldn't have been that curious, but this was the Zora Domain, where manmade walls were a foreign concept and lone pillars reigned. In mere minutes Mipha concluded Link was not just behind a column and genuinely wasn't within the Domain's premises.
If he'd left, there would probably be someone who'd know why and where to. She asked the brigade first.
"Link is missing?" Bazz's eyes went wide.
"That's not what I said," She responded quickly to stop any misconceptions, "I just can't find him anywhere within the domain."
"How's that different from being missing?" Rivan asked nobody in particular.
"What do you plan to do, princess?" Gaddison asked.
"Well, since you don't know where Link is, I'll ask other people who might."
"Really? Just that?" Bazz seemed to find the notion almost offensive.
"Yes, I'm sure one of them will know. So I'll be going now, thank you."
Mipha considered who to ask next, "Link and Princess Zelda have been spending much time together." She thought, not for the first time.
She shook her head and chose to try with Wolf and Midna, "Please excuse the interruption, but would either of you know where Link is?"
"I haven't seen him since I won our own swimming contest, mask and armor free." He said with a grin, then noticed the look on her face, "You seem worried. Any reason he shouldn't be fine?"
"I can't seem to find him. The brigade hasn't seen him either. I think he must have left the Domain…"
"Now, now." Midna wagged her finger, "You're jumping to conclusions without even letting me talk. I know perfectly well where Link is!"
"Oh? That's a relief." Mipha brightened instantly.
"You see, even with his real identity made known, 'Mikau' found himself with a sizable club of admirers." Midna gave a small cackle at this.
"What's so amusing about that?" Mipha wondered.
"It's a girls only club, princess."
"Oh… OH!" The zora flushed, not at all happy with this new information.
"That mob of crazy women was stalking him everywhere… so I figured I'd give him a little task that would take him out of their reach and perhaps remind him of what's more important." She grinned impishly.
Wolf raised an eyebrow at her, "A task?"
"A little treasure hunt. I had him find an anonymous note with clues for him to figure out. It will direct him to another note and so on until the promised treasure."
Wolf's eyes narrowed, "Midna, what is the treasure? Please tell me it's not what I think it is. Even you'd have enough tact as to not…" He trailed off as Midna looked to the side, arms crossing, "You did. Midna-"
"Oh, come on, I'm doing her a favor. Who knows how long it would take her if nobody gave her a push!"
A bad feeling came over Mipha, "What… what do you mean?"
Wolf gave his partner an intense, reproachful look, crossing his own arms.
With two pairs of eyes on her, Midna caved, "Fine. The treasure is the armor."
Mipha paled considerably, "The armor? Not… MY armor… right?" Midna's silence was enough of an answer, "WHERE DID YOU HIDE IT?!" Her raised voice could not keep out the panicked undertone as Mipha instantly closed the distance between them. Wolf startled at the uncharacteristic shout.
"Midna, please, you have to tell me!" The zora princess looked ready to beg on her knees.
"I'm helping you out. Besides, he doesn't know he's searching for the armor, or the meaning behind it… I imagine."
"He does. He very much does. I can't- I can't give it to him like this!"
"Tell her." Wolf's soft command had Midna waving a hand at him.
"I was going too, geez. I thought she would get to choose whether to explain it to him when he returned with it, but like this… Remember how you told me about a cave behind the waterfall just before Toto Lake?" At Mipha's frantic nod, she continued, "I buried it there. He's deciphering my directions, so if you're quick-"
Mipha had heard enough and was already heading for the water.
The moment she was about to dive, Wolf called out to her, "Princess, wait just a second!"
"I don't have time!" She shouted back.
"You should bring a replacement treasure." Wolf said.
She froze as her brain caught up to what he said. "I need to leave something behind. If I don't, Link will turn that cave upside down and find nothing. I can't do that to him." Mipha ran to where she kept her belongings and grabbed the first piece of jewelry she could, then booked it to the edge of the Domain.
"Sister!" Sidon's voice rang out as he unexpectedly tackled her, speaking fast, "You've been gone all day! Were you with Link? He's a zora now! Did you give him the thing?" After the incident with Wolf, he'd been told, insistently, not to openly talk about the armor, "Will you have more time to play with me after you do?"
"Sidon, dear, I'm sorry but I have to go now. It's of the utmost importance." Mipha told him, trying to hide her panic from her little brother.
"Where are you going?" Sidon peeked at her.
"To the cave by the waterfall at Toto Lake," Mipha answered hastily, "I'll be back soon, but I really must hurry."
"Can I come?"
"No, no. Stay here, I'll be right back!" Setting him on the ground, she ran to the edge and threw herself off it, her heart clenching as she ignored his call. She'd make it up to him.
Once in the water, Mipha immediately raced towards the falls, a chant of "Please let me get there first" repeating in her head. She nearly cried with relief when she made it to the waterfall. Taking a second to glance around and seeing no one behind her, she swam upstream then, near the top, shot herself out of it and into a cave, marking her landing with a neat roll.
Quickly whipping her head around she sighed, relieved that no one else was in the cave. Or so she thought, until a short figure emerged from the shadows. "Midna! Tell me, where is it?"
"First you have to listen-"
"No! You can tell me later, now where is it?" Without waiting for an answer she started frantically scanning the ground and it was due to her panicked looking that she missed the large glowing hand of orange and gold snatching her off the floor.
"Wrong, you're listening now." Midna said, to which Mipha actually bared her fangs and snarled at her as she struggled uselessly to break free. "You can pick your precious armor up and lock it back into its chest. You can leave it in there until your dear Link is a toothless old man if that's what you choose. But I want you to tell me right now that the reason you're not giving it to him yet is because it needs to be the right moment, or because you have to be certain of how he feels about you, or whatever typical excuse young girls in love come up with to not act on their feelings."
As Midna went on, Mipha gradually stopped fighting her hold, both because it proved fruitless and because she realized Midna's voice was going from angry to shaky and, by the end, was almost breaking.
"I want you to tell me… I want you to tell me the reason you're not giving it to him yet is not because you believe you are from two different worlds and can never really be together." There were tears now streaking Midna's cheeks, "Because you are not! And you don't know how fortunate you are!" She released her grip, allowing the zora back to the ground.
"The stupid armor is buried there." The twili pointed to an area of disturbed dirt, then quickly sank into the ground and was gone.
Mipha blinked, shocked, but immediately rushed over to the spot. As she knelt down to dig, she took a second glance at what she'd held this whole time, the replacement treasure. A sapphire. Much like the item that, ages ago, zora armor had come to replace as the princess's symbol of engagement. This was just an ordinary one, Link would probably think nothing of it, but Mipha had to wonder, was it mere coincidence that she picked it? Or was a small, rebellious part of her desperately trying to take this chance and confess her feelings?
She spent a mere moment thinking of this before stashing the sapphire in her sash to free her hands. Just then she heard the sound she dreaded the most. Water splashing on the rocks and the dull thud of someone rolling on the ground.
"Please no. Please do not let it be Link. Hylia, if you are listening, please do NOT let it be him." Swiftly turning around, all hope fled out of her as Link in his zora form stood up, shaking off the excess water.
Noticing her, Link tilted his head, "Mipha? What are you doing here?"
"Oh, ah. Link, hello. I- uh." She frantically attempted to come up with an excuse as she scooted so she was covering where the armor was buried, anything that could get her out of this mess! "I was looking for you and Midna told me if I came here, you'd arrive shortly after, so…" Mipha could have smacked herself. Presenting herself as the treasure?! How did an act so monumentally arrogant seem like a good idea for even one second? No doubt Link was now thinking this was a ridiculous waste of his time and-
"Ah, so Midna was behind this, wasn't she?" His impossibly black eyes stared at her, in surprise, before he looked to the side, thoughtful, "This is… unexpected. But she is certainly not mistaken."
A surge of heat like never before rose incredibly fast to Mipha's face. She turned around, once again under the pretense of coughing, but her agitation was so great she actually really did start coughing fairly vigorously.
"Mipha? Are you alright?" Link asked, taking several steps forward.
She sputtered an affirmative noise but didn't turn around, lest he see her blush and realize she knew what Midna promised he'd find. She couldn't believe what Link had just said! He was not disappointed, he actually… he treasured her. But as a friend or… something more?
Could she give him the armor now, after all? She thought back to Midna's plea, to the sapphire she brought, perhaps a message she gave herself, perhaps one from fate. She'd have to imply that the armor had been hidden here by her and Midna found out, so as to not expose her little lie from moments ago. But it could work. "The armor is right here and so are we, with no one else around. This actually is the perfect situation. I… I should give it to him, before I lose my nerve!"
But what if he did see her only as a treasured friend? She needed to know! She couldn't risk ruining the bond they shared.
Daring to glance back at him, she almost couldn't handle the soft smile he directed at her. Looking at it she suddenly knew what to do, "…I'm glad you came."
Except, "He could assume this was just due to the mask… He mustn't come to that conclusion! I'll… I'll ask him to take it off first."
"I am too." He replied before a thoughtful expression crossed his face, "After all, I promised."
"You… promised?" Mipha asked, unsure which promise he was referring to.
"Yes. That we would spend more time together. Remember?"
That day on Vah Ruta. She didn't realize he'd taken her invitation to heart quite so.
It didn't help her blush when he added, "The Calamity is gone now, yet we are still busy, you with your royal duties and me with guarding the princess. But I'm sure we can find time to be together." Did this man know how his words affected her? Taking a deep breath and steeling herself, she stood and turned around. With slow, careful steps she moved closer to him, her eyes regretfully leaving his lips to meet his gaze.
"I will give him every opportunity to step back." She thought, intensely hoping he wouldn't. And if he didn't, they may have a little digging to do. But first… "Link… would you-"
Link turned around, a splash, a tumble and tweeting noises echoing through the cave, the latter of which especially had Mipha recoil back like she'd been burned.
"FOUND HIM!" She watched in disbelief over Link's shoulders as Bazz with Sidon clinging to his back, whistle still in hand and tiny mouth wide open after proudly announcing this accomplishment, made their entrance into their little haven, followed by the rest of the brigade.
"Link, there you are-", "Everything is alright, isn't it?", "I told you he'd be fine." Bazz, Rivan and Gaddison spoke over each other.
"No! No, no, no! I was so close!" Mipha's thoughts were quite far from her usual self. Miraculously, she managed to not let this show, "Wh-what are you all doing here?"
Bazz blinked, "Princess, you told us Link couldn't be found. Did- did you not expect us to mount a search?"
A very small part of Mipha, one she would never listen to or acknowledge, screamed to beat him senseless, "I specifically said he wasn't missing, that I just didn't know where he might be."
"W-well, we went around looking and asking for him. Then I found Sidon who told us you had gone off to Toto Lake in a rush, so I assumed Link must have been in trouble. I gathered the others and hurried here." Bazz finished, having found in himself the decency to look slightly mortified.
Mipha didn't have time to respond as another red scaled zora came from the waterfall, rolled neatly, only to trip over the brigade pile still on the floor. Would the whole domain eventually make an appearance in this little cave?
"What the-?" Kodah cut off as she landed on Gaddison's upright elbow, driving the air from her lungs.
"Kodah? What are you doing here?" Rivan asked, the question on everyone's face.
"Yeah," Bazz piped up, "Didn't you say you were sure Link was fine and there was no need to amount a search for him?"
"That was before I knew you were going to search for him anyway. I came to make sure you weren't going overboard." She wheezed, shaking herself and standing up. Gaddison chuckled, earning a nasty glare from her friend, "Besides, Linny! What were you thinking disappearing like that?" Kodah, stepped up to him and lightly punched the confused hero on his shoulder, "N-not that I was worried! But clearly the others were since they sought you out like this!"
Sidon disentangled himself and ran towards Mipha, "Sister, you seemed scared, so I got them to help me so we could help you!"
As her brother latched onto her, Mipha really wanted her smile to be sincere. However, she couldn't stop thinking about how her perfect opportunity was gone. She couldn't confess to Link now, surrounded as they were.
Link's laughter pulled her from her depressing thoughts, "You were looking for me? Good job finding where I was. I'm impressed." He said, patting Sidon's head and making him laugh.
"Are you always going to be a zora now?" The prince asked.
Link shook his head, "No, only for a little bit."
Sidon thought this over, "I wanna be a hylian for a little bit!"
"Oh boy, don't let Muzu hear you say that!"
"It's not a lost cause." Mipha reminded herself as she smiled fondly, "I made progress today. I learned Link considers me a treasure, even though I'm not sure in which way. I must believe there will be other opportunities to come. I'll simply have to wait for them."
"Of course King Rhoam was going to give you time off." Wanderer waved his hand around, making the mist surrounding him move, "He knows that you haven't really had a break for far too long. Plus, this was the princess's idea."
"It's still a bit of a surprise that he's letting me do this." Link said before turning back to Sea, "Don't wander off in that direction. I know you can see the deer, but animals aren't affected like us."
"I'm thankful we didn't have to sit in while the Champions and the king talked about what to do with the divine beast." Wolf sighed, looking at the reaching branches of the Lost Woods trees.
"True. From what they say, it could take up to a week or two to get to a decision." Loft nodded.
"I don't know if I'm happy to have gone along with the princess's suggestion to go on our own, without our friends." Sea muttered, "It's not fair I had to leave the pirate's charm with king Rhoam while Loft still has his companion."
"Do you suppose I should have left the Master Sword behind?" The hero from the sky asked, "Fi doesn't come out anyway unless I call her or she has to impart information. And hey, my loftwing isn't here, that counts for something, right?"
"What should I say? I didn't have a companion to leave behind." Wanderer shrugged, then turned to the Link of the present era, "What about you? From what we've heard, would you say Zelda is your companion?"
"Princess Zelda," Link made sure to stress out the title, "has admittedly been with me through this whole thing… but I'm not sure if I'd call it a journey. It was all over so soon, no doubt in great measure thanks to the champions and the help you all provided us."
"You're welcome for the save. Couldn't have done it without our divine benefactor." Wanderer smirked, "So was that a yes?"
Link frowned, "I don't know if I'm willing to make that call. To label the princess as 'my companion' seems incredibly presumptuous."
"Hmm, I see what you mean. You're saying it'd be more proper to call you her companion." Wanderer jived, "Though I am quite sure she has no wish to hold you at a distance like that. Rather I believe she sees you as a peer and that she would prefer you did the same with her."
"You presume a lot, maybe too much." Link said, but he did look like he was considering it.
"Well then," Wolf interjected, "Maybe not a companion due to your distinct roles, but I'm sure I'm not mistaken if I say that you've been able to go through this with the aid of princess Mipha. Both her healing power and moral support."
"I… yes, you're not wrong. Although, looking back, I believe after I drew the sword, I put a little distance between us as well." Link sighed, "I felt that I had to be… unreadable to everyone, so that their preconceived notion of the hero would not be shattered. I didn't mean to do it with her too, but… it was a way of being I couldn't easily snap in and out of."
"So you ought to go back to the way things were!" Wolf said, encouragingly, "I know for a fact she would like the old Link back. And be assured there is no resentment on her part."
"I know. I have every intention of removing that distance I myself created. But thank you, Wolf."
"Don't mention it! You are fortunate to have someone like her in your life, I hope you know that."
The other nodded, "I do."
Unnoticed by them, Wanderer had been listening with his eyes narrowed at Wolf. Jovially, he said, "He certainly is. After all, if you think back to the moment princess Zelda's powers awakened, I very much doubt it was a coincidence that this happened just in time to prevent him from succumbing to the Calamity."
Link turned to him, surprised, "What do you mean?"
"From what you've told us, the powers of the Fierce Deity had proved ineffective against your foe, its malice washing over you, your armor offering no protection." He shrugged, "I don't think it's a long shot to imagine that the princess may have awakened her powers upon seeing you in such peril."
Link blinked, shook his head, "Once again, you are assuming things."
"Well I don't have solid proof, sure, but is it that far fetched?" Wanderer asked, "I mean, under that temper of hers, she appears to be a caring young woman."
Wolf gave a chuckle, "She may be, but empathy really is the quality that truly defines princess Mipha, I would say."
Wanderer grumbled, "Let's not forget that it was also thanks to princess Zelda if the champions were able to pilot their divine beasts. Her scientific mind helped our friend here, and the kingdom, perhaps almost as much as her inborn powers."
Wolf opened his mouth to offer a rebuttal but fell silent as Link asked "Since when have you two become so invested in extolling the two princesses?" His voice was oozing with suspicion, "What are you really trying to accomplish with this competition you're having?"
Wolf stammered, "Wh- Competition? Nothing of the sort, we were just remarking their qualities, right Wanderer?" The hero in question nodded, but Wolf remained under a scrutinizing gaze. He glanced at Woods who had been strangely silent for some time, taking in the creepy forest, "So Woods! What were you and Urbosa talking about when you first arrived at the castle? You looked quite amused."
Woods snapped to attention, "What? Oh, that." He scratched the back of his head, "We were talking about the pranks I helped Link pull off in her town."
Link whipped around to face him, all talk of princesses forgotten, "Can we not discuss that?"
"Oh, come on, it was fun. You shouldn't feel bad about it."
"No one was supposed to know it was me." Link groaned, rubbing a hand across his face.
"What did you do?" Loft asked, eyebrow raised.
Link let out a muffled groan, so Woods took over, "I let him borrow one of my masks that makes the person wearing it essentially invisible. If you don't drive attention to yourself, say by touching someone, then only a few, highly observant people can see you. As we eventually discovered, Urbosa was one of these. Anyway, I asked him to do some pranks, for fun and to vent the irritation I endured as all of those women incessantly cooed over me."
Wolf laughed, "Way to help a brother in need."
"I can't imagine being surrounded by chatty women for weeks." Wanderer bumped fists with Link.
"Yeah… he went above and beyond what I expected though!" There was a moment of shocked silence among them. They may not know him all that well, but Link projected an image of no-nonsense.
"You did?" Wanderer looked back at Link with evident curiosity.
"Let's just say that, beyond wanting to vindicate Woods, I had my own frustrations with that place and its dumb rules."
"Seriously guys?" Loft said, shaking his head as the mist took on a less eerie glow.
"Yeah, seriously. If you were in my shoes and Link did the same thing," Woods countered, "You'd be thanking him profusely."
"Why is it they were so interested in him, though?" Sea asked, brows furrowed.
Link looked down at him with a grimace, "Gerudo women never see men in their town."
"So?" Sea frowned, most of them hardly noticing as the scenery around them changed to be more pleasant.
"So," Woods picked up, "They can't control their excitement when there's a male where there's not supposed to be." As Sea continued to look confused, Woods sighed exaggeratedly, "You'll understand when you're older."
"We're basically the same age." Sea huffed, crossing his arms.
"I have seen many creepy and terrifying things that have forced me to grow up faster than expected."
"Right, and I haven't gone through a temple full of redeads and poes." The sailer retorted.
"Yeah well, I also did age seven years and spent a considerable amount of time like that." Woods waved his hand as if to diminish the other's rebuttal.
"And yet it only took a persistent woman to make you skittish." Sea stuck his tongue out.
Woods gasped dramatically, "That's it, you little whippersnapper! I have to show you some manners!" Sea had no time to prepare as Woods launched himself at him, their laughter making it hard to wrestle.
"Now, now children. Let's not fight." Wanderer shook his head, pausing as they stopped their play-fight.
"Did you hear that, Sea? He called us children."
"I did, Woods. If he called us children, then it'd be perfectly normal to act childish, don't you agree?"
"Absolutely." With matching grins, they scrambled off the ground.
"Hey, now. Let's talk this through." Wanderer backed up as the two prowled forward, "It's unfair for you two to be against only me." He yelped as he jumped away and started to run, avoiding their grabby hands, "Sir knight! Help! You assisted Woods in his time of need, now it's my turn!"
"That's not how it works-" Link cut off as Wolf tripped him when Wanderer dashed by, making him fall on Sea.
"Oops, my foot slipped." Wolf smirked as Sea changed targets and rolled in the grass with Link.
Loft jumped on Wolf's back, already putting him in an armlock, "Lying is a bad habit."
"That's dirty!" Wolf wheezed as he fought against it.
"Not as dirty as you tripping me! I would have stayed out of it!" Link grumbled, narrowly avoiding an elbow to the face, "Watch it!"
"Come on," Wanderer, having crouched down with his back to a tree, skillfully slapped away Woods' hands as they pretended their arms were swords, "We're all men here. Let's be reasonable and act like it."
"We are acting like men." Woods' eyes gleamed, looking for an opportunity to strike.
"Yeah, right, maybe men who had too much to drink."
Wolf heaved Loft off his back, making him land on Sea and Link. The two heroes on the floor took offense to Loft, even though it was the sharp-eyed hero that'd thrown him.
Wolf took a moment to breathe, but lost it when Wanderer ran into him, having escaped from Woods.
"Did you not look where you were going?" Wolf huffed, getting in on their arm-sword fight as Woods followed shortly after, "Were you raised by goats?"
Woods gasped, "No, by cuccos! That would explain so much!"
"Why? What's the deal with them?" Wanderer blocked a chop to his head.
His question was shocking enough for Woods to stop and stare at him, bringing them to a standstill.
"You-" Woods blinked, "You've never had to contend with cuccos?"
Wanderer frowned, "Aren't they farm animals? I've never had reason to spend time with one. What do you mean?"
"Consider yourself lucky." Woods grumbled.
"What is your problem with cuccos?" Wolf asked him
"They're small, deadly monsters." Woods growled.
Wolf looked at the preteen, "Deadly? How are they deadly? They're pretty interesting if you get to know them."
Woods looked at him, shocked, "... get to know them?"
Wanderer looked over his shoulder and saw the other three heroes were still locked in battle, "Guys, hold up. Now that we're outside Link's hearing range," He turned to Wolf, hands on his hips, "What was that about Wolf? I was trying my best to get him to see Zelda as more than an unreachable goddess in the flesh and you wrecked everything with your eulogy of the zora princess!"
Wolf crossed his arms, "Well, why shouldn't I have? You seemed like you were trying to push him into starting a romance with her."
Wanderer slapped a hand to his forehead, "That's exactly what I was doing!"
"I see. Well, maybe you didn't realize, but Princess Mipha is in love with him."
"Of course she is." Wanderer huffed, "But it's obvious that he and Zelda are meant for each other."
"You're just saying that because you're infatuated with a Princess Zelda from the past. It's clear that Mipha's feelings run deeper and have grown over time. Didn't you see him and Mipha swimming together, back in Hyrule Field? How happy they were?" Wolf frowned, shaking his head.
"What are you talking about? Princess Zelda has spent much more time with him. They get along splendidly and they go everywhere together."
"They spend that much time together because he's her knight. Mipha and him are childhood friends and she knows more about him than the Princess Zelda."
"Are zora and hylians even allowed to get married?" As Wolf's eyes narrowed, Wanderer further explained, "I'm not saying this because of the zora I'm familiar with. I'm genuinely curious if they can, being different species. And she's a princess too, things could be even more strict." When Wolf didn't answer, Wanderer pointed an accusing finger, "You don't even know!"
"Why would I know? I've lived all my life in a small village on the outskirts of Hyrule, isolated by the forest!"
"That hasn't stopped a zora from proposing before." Woods voiced, earning two surprised looks.
"Oh right. Princess Ruto of the zora proposed to you. See, it can happen!" Wolf smirked.
"That's not quite what I meant." Woods tried to interject, but was ignored.
"But they didn't get together!" Wanderer shook his head.
"As of yet."
"No thanks! Not happening!" Woods crossed his arms in an X motion.
Changing tactics, Wolf said, "Didn't the princess borderline hate Link when he became her knight?"
"She did?" Woods blinked in surprise, "How do you know that?"
"You'd be surprised at how many rumors there are surrounding Princess Mipha, Link, and Princess Zelda in Zora Domain."
"That was eons ago. Haven't you ever heard that burning hatred can turn into the sweetest love?"
"I am almost 100% positive that you made that up."
"Gentlemen!" Woods clapped his hands in front of him, making them blink and look at him, "I know for a fact both princesses are in love with the hylian champion."
"I knew it!" Wanderer said but Woods shushed him.
"I can understand you've become friends with the two and their fathers… but don't you think it would be best to let them try to win Link's affection on their own?"
"You're one to talk about non-interference, you gave him that zora mask!" Wanderer accused.
"I did. Back then I didn't realize the other princess was in love with him as well. But I would say that in doing so I evened the ground a little. As you pointed out, different species. That could have been an advantage for one of them." Woods sighed, "The point is, I've heard both princesses admit their feelings and neither asked me or other people to put a good word in for them. So are you sure they would want this? Or for us to be arguing amongst ourselves?"
"We weren't arguing." Wolf denied.
"Yeah, we were having a spirited discussion."
Woods looked at them in disbelief, "Uh-huh. Sure you were."
"Regardless, you're right." Wolf said to Wanderer's surprise, "We have no business pushing our opinions in this matter."
Wanderer blew at his bangs, "Fine, we'll leave it to them to sort it out. But Zelda is going to win and you know it."
"Who are you guys?" A small voice made them all freeze and as one, looked at a small korok standing at the edge of a wooden tunnel, "Wait! I know you! You're the hero who came for the sword!" The korok tilted his head, "How did you multiply?"
With an embarrassed cough, everyone straightened up.
"This little fella looks exactly like the koroks in my time." Sea said.
His words made Woods frown and mumble to himself, "I didn't expect this…"
"I didn't multiply. These are my friends." Link explained, "We're here to see the Deku Tree."
"You are? Well then, follow me!" They fell in line behind the small wooden creature as he continued to talk, "The Deku Tree told us to watch out for a group of travelers with the same spirit and to let them pass. I think he meant people who looked alike, not same spirit."
They entered into a beautiful clearing, making them all gaze around in awe.
"I'll be honest," Wolf chuckled, "I was thinking that we were going to be surrounded by an ancient, decayed building with flora surrounding it. Not this."
Wanderer frowned at him, "Why's that?"
"That's what the groove where I found the Master Sword looked like. But then again, that was in the south, not the north."
"I got it in a Sacred Temple." Woods said.
"Mine was at the bottom of the ocean in Hyrule Castle." Sea added.
"Fi led me to the sword under the goddess statue. Of course that was in Skyloft." Loft said.
They all jumped as a deep, ancient voice spoke, filling the clearing, "Well, well. What do we have here?"
"I brought them to you! One of them is the hero!" The korok rushed forward, joining his brethren in the trees.
"Thank you, little one. Please, travelers, come forward." They did and several mouths dropped at the sight of a talking tree.
"You know, when you said tree, I didn't think you really did mean an actual tree." Wolf whispered, "I thought it was a title."
"Nope." Link shook his head.
Woods looked around at the various koroks, some hovering in place with spinning leaves, others bouncing excitedly, or playing with one another. "They seem… happy." But still his mind was plagued with questions, "Where are the kokiri?"
"How interesting." The tree rumbled his massive branches rustling as he leaned forward, "Hylians clothed in the garment of the hero and several of you are carrying the Master Sword. Heroes in times past, I presume?"
Loft looked up at him, "How'd you know?"
"I have lived long and learned much. Although I am curious as to how you came to be all in the same time period."
"We did time travel, though we're not exactly sure on how." Woods said, "We know it was caused by the interference of the Fierce Deity, but not how he did it."
"Ah, heroes dealing with time travel?" The tree chuckled, "Why am I not surprised."
"I… did not expect him to accept our story that quickly." Wanderer said.
Woods looked up at the Deku Tree with a pensive expression before saying, "I was raised among the kokiri. I… What happened to them?"
"Oh… I see. I believe I know of you. Welcome back, Hero of Time." The tree's benevolent smile grew and Woods' eyes shimmered. "There are tales that I know of that surpass 10,000 years ago, far beyond any living memory. I have bore witness to the events that would shape many legends and I know a few stories about the kokiri."
"Would you," Woods hesitated, "Would you be willing to tell me about them?"
"And could you tell me why Hyrule is not flooded by water anymore?" Sea chimed in, "If you know why."
"I will answer your questions to the best of my ability." The tree smiled gently at him. Before he could start, the korok's chatter rose around them as they ran into the clearing. Several of them pulled the heroes down to sit, telling them which one of the stories was their favorite. The Deku Tree cleared his throat pointedly, quieting the talking and once they had settled down, began one of his tales.
"It's almost time to go back." Wanderer grimaced, glancing at his fellow heroes in an empty storage room in the castle. He received four nods, "So, I'm just clarifying, but did everyone also hear a voice telling them that they'd be taken back to their own time when the decision was made?" Another round of nods.
"It has to mean the decision about the divine beasts." Sea frowned.
"I think we should tell the others." Wolf said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I agree. I don't want to disappear on Urbosa like that." Woods added.
"Plus we'll never see them again, so I don't want it to end on a bad note." Loft sighed, making everyone wince at that thought.
Wanderer spoke up, "The decision will likely be happening tomorrow, so we'll only have tonight. I think we should tell them now. We should return to the feast that was held in our honor."
Wolf nodded and led the way out into the corridor that led to the extravagant dining hall. As they entered, they weaved through the party-goers, surprisingly not stopped by the guests, and made it to the corner where the champions, princess, and king were residing.
"Oh, heroes. Where did you disappear to?" Urbosa asked.
"Your majesty, your highness and champions, we'd like to speak with you, if we may?" Wolf asked. King Rhoam blinked at him before nodding and dismissed the few nobles next to them. After they departed, Wanderer took the lead.
"We're going to be leaving when the decision about the divine beasts is made."
Loft mumbled under his breath as the champion's eyes went wide, "Way to ease them into it."
"Leaving?" Revali asked, his brow furrowing.
"Yeah. We don't know when exactly, but it's probably going to be tomorrow." Sea nodded.
"How do you know that?" Mipha questioned.
The heroes looked at each other, "Well," Woods scratched the back of his head, "We all heard it shortly after Princess Zelda and Champion Link visited us in our respective villages."
"Oh." Zelda turned to Wanderer and Loft, "Is that why you seemed suddenly distracted that day just before we left?"
They gave sheepish nods, "Yeah, we weren't quite sure how to take the information and process it."
"So it must have happened to the rest of you when we weren't there." Impa stated.
"That, or you were too busy to notice us being distracted." Wolf confirmed.
The feast continued on, but not quite with the same cheer after this reveal. Soon enough, without any prior agreement to do so, each hero found himself wandering off with the one they'd been hurled through time to save.
"I wish you didn't have to go." Urbosa sighed, grabbing Woods and setting him in her lap, "Really, I do. Your era has been anything but fair to you."
Woods didn't protest at all and instead turned around to give her a hug, "I have to, there's a whole world on the brink of annihilation and I'm the only one who can stop it. But I wish I could come back. I- You-" He buried his head against her arm, making a frustrated noise.
Urbosa gently rubbed his back with one hand and stroked his hair with the other. He huffed, not wanting to say anything.
"We certainly had quite a few fun adventures together, didn't we?" He nodded at her question, "I still can't believe that you were able to punch a molduga when you'd transformed into a goron. I had been so afraid that it would have crushed you." She held him closer as he choked back a sob.
"You're the closest thing I've had to a mother and I don't think I'm ready to let that go yet." He admitted, clinging tighter to her.
He was unable to see Urbosa's eyes go misty at his confession, "Oh sweetie. You've become like a son to me and I am going to miss you terribly. But you know what I won't be? I won't be worried, not a bit. Even though your adventure takes place in another dimension and we have no records of how it'll end, I know you're going to pull through just fine."
"You can bet on that." Tatl said hovering above the hero's head and in front of Urbosa, "I'll keep an eye on him until we see this whole situation to its end."
Urbosa nodded with a smile, "I'll be counting on you."
Revali looked at Loft, a sour look on his face, "So you'll be leaving soon."
"I will be." Loft nodded.
"Well, that's fine, I suppose." Revali huffed, looking away as his frown deepened.
Loft blinked at the friend he'd made, his expression softening, "You forgot that I'd have to return to my own time."
"I did nothing of the sort." Revali scoffed, turning away, "Now, if you'll excuse me-"
"I consider you one of my closest friends." Loft's words stopping the rito in his tracks, "You can't have the number one spot because that's reserved for my Zelda, but after everything we've gone through, it pains me to know that I may never see you again."
Revali stayed silent, his back towards Loft. Eventually, the rito champion's shoulders slumped as he turned around, a twisted expression on his face, "You know I don't have friends. Usually people fail to measure up to me and are put off by my personality. You were the first one that both impressed me and stuck around, the first I considered making more than an acquaintance."
Loft smiled, "Growing up, I had to deal with this really pompous bully. He was way bigger than me and several other kids became followers of his." He raised a hand seeing Revali open his beak to interrupt, "No, I'm not suggesting he's anything like you. For one, you can put your bow where your beak is." He chuckled, while the rito remained unamused. "One day he followed me to the surface, convinced he would make a much better hero than me. What he saw left him petrified with fear and humbled. But because of that, he turned a new leaf and is now earnestly doing everything he can to support me in my efforts to save Zelda. So... that's why I stuck around, as you said. I've learned not to stop at the first superficial impression when meeting someone. You never know, they might become one of your best friends."
Revali sighed, "Okay, I can admit I'm going to miss-"
"And that's to say nothing of that one demon who actually wants to live in peace with humans. When I first met him, he was screaming his head off at a little girl." Link added in, "If I was able to get past a first impression like that, obviously you couldn't get rid of me as easily as anybody else."
The rito brought his feathered fingers over his face, "Nevermind, you're a dolt."
Loft laughed but his eyes fell to the floor, "If I could, I'd visit. But considering that I was only told I'd go back, I don't know if that'd be possible." A thought occurred to him, "Fi, could you… could you calculate the odds that I may be able to visit this era again?"
The spirit materialized out of his sword, "With the available data, Master, the best estimate I am able to make is approximately 0.8% which, I believe, is considerably less than what you would have wished it to be," She continued, somewhat uncharacteristically for her, "…I apologize for not being able to provide a more agreeable answer, Master."
"It's… it's alright Fi, it isn't your fault." Loft said with a mix of surprise and disappointment.
He heard Revali scoff before a wing was thrown around his shoulders, "Let's not mope right now!" The rito's expression was strained, "You haven't left yet, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we can. When you leave, we can deal with it then."
"Alright." Loft's smile was small as he allowed Revali to lead him away.
Daruk rubbed the back of his head, "With everything that's been going on, I'd forgotten that you weren't originally from here."
"Yeah." Sea slumped.
"Don't worry, Tiny Guy! I'm sure we'll be able to see each other again." He slapped the hero's back, making him stumble.
"I- I don't think that we will." Sea mumbled.
"Why's that?" The goron tilted his head.
"Because I have no idea how I got here. It's not something I can do again because it's through the Fierce Deity that I was able to travel through time." Sea gasped as Daruk scooped him up and gently rubbed the top of his head.
"Then how are you so sure that he wouldn't do that again?"
Sea looked up at him, "Because we were sent to help you guys out."
"But he also let you stay longer to get a vacation. Why couldn't he let you visit sometime later?" Daruk's logic made Sea blink several times.
"Because why would he?"
"Why wouldn't he?"
A slow smile grew on Sea's face, "You know what? You're right. There's no need to worry because there's always a chance that I can see you again."
"That's right, Tiny Guy! And even if we don't see each other again, it's alright because we still have wonderful memories of our time together.
"That goes for you too, ghost king. If you're ever able to, feel free to drop by again!"
The pirate charm glowed blue, "Thank you Daruk, that is very-"
The goron put a finger to the pendant, "But if you could, please make sure you bring another rock like this, so I can try it out!"
Said rock emitted a sigh as Sea hid his laughter behind his hand.
Mipha shuffled in front of Wolf, casting her gaze to the ground, "I am grateful for the time we spent together."
"Me too. Thank you for guiding me to Zora Domain to talk to your father. Being able to see how he rules and how your people respond to it was insightful." Wolf said.
Mipha looked up at him, chewing her lip, "Sidon is going to miss you. He thought for sure that you were going to come back after the meeting. I did too."
"I'm sorry, I should have spoken up sooner. This free time has helped me relax tremendously and I will miss you and Sidon too." Wolf smiled ruefully at her, "I don't think that Muzu and Seggin will be sad to see me go."
His comment caused her to giggle, "No, I don't think they will. They were not happy whenever you wore your zora armor."
He leaned close, "If that's how they react to a stranger wearing the zora armor, I wonder how they'd react to Champion Link wearing your armor."
"Wolf!" Mipha squeaked, hands rushing to cover her reddening cheeks.
"I'm rooting for you. I know how much you adore him. It's a shame you weren't able to give him the armor in the cave. The Big Bazz Brigade really appeared at the worst possible moment." Link sighed as he smiled.
"How did you learn about that?" Mipha's blush increased.
"Midna told me, of course. She was hiding in the shadows the whole time and was not happy that all her hard work was ruined. She was this close to throwing them all out of the cave when they showed up." He laughed as Mipha squirmed in embarrassment.
But then, surprisingly, she leaned in towards him, "You know…" she whispered softly, "for a moment I considered doing that too."
Both burst into laughter, which attracted Midna's attention. She'd been indulging herself a little and they could tell when she floated her way to them, cheeks somewhat flushed, "You guysh having fun without me-e?"
"Just discussing the Big Bad Bazz Brigade crashing Mipha's magic moment."
"Those pesky kids!" Midna swung her hair hand at the air, fist balled.
Mipha blinked before looking at the hero, "Wolf, could you give me and Midna just a few minutes together. I promise it'll be short." Mipha asked. Wolf raised his eyebrows but obligingly took several steps back
"Oh, Midna... " She motioned for the other princess to come closer.
The twili obliged, "What? Don't tell me... you want my help to pick drinks that will loosen your knight's inhibitions?"
"N-no! ...maybe? But that's not what I wanted to talk about." The zora got close to the twilight princess, so as to not be overheard, "I want you to tell me you're not going to give up on him on an assumption, that you'll keep thinking of how you can be together even though you are from different worlds."
Midna floated back, her exposed eye wide first then quickly becoming shiny as her expression grew somber, "No wonder you got along so well, you are both idiots." She grumbled, turning around and wiping away at it. "…I will think about it. I would have anyway. But thanks for the support, I guess." She spun back to her with a grin on her face "Now let's make use of all this lovely alcohol laying around! We've got heroes to get inebriated!"
"Thank you for everything you've taught me." Wanderer grinned at the king, "I feel like having seen how you rule in action made me more prepared than anything I could ever learn from studying a book"
"It was a delight having you around. You picked up everything rather quickly." King Rhoam chuckled, "I'm going to miss having someone shadow me around."
"What about Princess Zelda?" Wanderer asked, "Wouldn't she want to learn from you?"
Rhoam glanced to where his daughter was with her knight and sheikah guard, "I don't know if she'd be willing to do that. She said she'd like to reconcile with me, but… I'm not sure how to do that."
Wanderer smiled as he placed a hand on the king's shoulder, "Why don't you try including her in things and asking her opinion like you did with me. I'm sure she has some bright ideas and only wants to be heard by you."
"That is sound advice. I'll do that. I'm only afraid she'll think I'm trying to restrain her to the castle again."
"Then talk to her about it."
Rhoam sent a gentle smile in Wanderer's direction, "Look at you. You'll make a great king for sure."
Princess Zelda watched each of the different interactions from a distance, feeling a tug of sadness on her heart that these wonderful heroes were going to be vanishing on them.
"They seem to have forged strong bonds with the champions." Impa observed.
"I'm not surprised. They were on this vacation for weeks." Link said, his eyes a bit dim.
"You're going to miss them as well, aren't you?" Zelda said quietly.
Link nodded, "It was nice spending time with them when we visited Korok Forest. We became good friends on the journey. I'm going to miss being able to talk with them. We have had similar roles and trials. Makes it easy to understand one another."
"We should enjoy the time we have left with them." Impa said, already starting to walk forward, "The Fierce Deity was nice enough to let them stay as long as they did, let's not waste it."
Zelda and Link went with her, "Wise words. We can be sad when they leave us, not before."
They approached her father and Wanderer first. Noticing them, the latter pointed a finger at the knight, "There you are quiet me! I want you to know I'm expecting you to continue watching over my little sister, got it?"
"E-excuse me?!" Zelda exclaimed after the small pause it took her to realize she was the little sister in question.
"I said it before, didn't I? We're family."
"Even so, why would I be the little one? I'm seventeen, you're sixteen!"
"Please, I'm over ten thousand years your senior…" Wanderer tutted, while Rhoam chuckled.
"I wonder… is this what it is like to have a brother?" The princess considered, pondering too if she shouldn't have tried to spend more time with her father and Wanderer.
But the night was still young, and in joining the crowd, she along with everyone else was determined to make the most of it. Tomorrow was a day away, so they'd enjoy today to the fullest.
Not for the first time, he stumbled and nearly fell in his mad dash through the forest, his home. How could this be happening? It was supposed to be all over. The Great Deku Tree said as much, the Calamity had been defeated and sealed away! The heroes who did it had even come to visit, while he was traveling, and confirmed this.
It was hard to focus his thoughts as he tried desperately to get away from those… strange creatures coated in that black and purple mud. One, looking like a large boulder, had taken notice of him and threw a fiery rock in his direction, almost setting him ablaze, then moved in to finish the job. Naturally he ran, not wishing to die at the hands of some strange sort of overgrown pebblit. Was it still after him? Did he lose the monster?He couldn't be sure.
The panic finally started to recede when he looked around and saw the forest clear of monsters. Nonetheless, he continued on. What was he to do? What? He was not the hero… the hero! He needed to find him and let him know about this! He would know what to do. The hero would save the forest and everyone. But first, he needed to get out of the forest.
He kept on running with renewed determination, his newfound purpose giving him clarity… and he almost got himself chopped in half when a monster stepped out from behind a tree and swung a battle-axe at him. He narrowly dodged but lost his equilibrium and, this time, after far too few steps away from this new danger, fell ruinously to the forest floor, his precious maracas flying off and into the tall grass, as good as vanished.
The monster, a moblin covered in the same weird mud as those he had seen before, roared in evident satisfaction, as it moved in for the kill.
"Shakala! Somebody help me, please!" Hestu quivered with despair.
As the Moblin hefted the axe in preparation to bisect the unfortunate korok, it almost let it slip out of its grasp when one arm flew over its eyes to protect them from the blinding light that suddenly filled the forest.
Since his own eyes had not been directly hit by the light, Hestu instinctively looked around for what may have caused it, not knowing what he would see but hoping for salvation in whatever form it might take. He was not prepared for what he found, to say the very least. Behind him, the forest was gone, replaced by a completely different panorama of open fields and gentle hills. Looking forward revealed the forest as he knew it. On the ground, the two environments were neatly divided by a glowing line of symbols, almost resembling a chain.
Hestu barely had time to stand up and contemplate whether to try and escape into the unfamiliar landscape or run along the mysterious runes, when the moblin roared behind him, having recovered its sight and seemingly not having altered its plans for the korok.
"Along the symbols it is!" Hestu thought as he hurried away, not looking back.
He didn't get far. The moblin threw its axe at him and it grazed one of his legs, making him fall again. The monster grunted with glee as it marched toward the hapless soon to be victim, who was once again crying pitifully for help.
And then, all sounds were drowned out by that of a galloping horse. The moblin turned, unarmed, and was hit right in its snout by the front hooves of the majestic animal, its rider following that up with a series of quick slashes from the sword in his hand. The moblin kicked and punched but it was clearly a hopeless struggle and, in short order, the once fearsome monster succumbed to the many blows it took and was stomped to death.
Finally, Hestu was able to properly see the newcomer. It was him! Mr. Hero, whom he'd once seen draw the sword in front of the Great Deku Tree! Mr. Hero was here, the forest would be saved! He made a truly gallant sight dressed in the colors of the forest and of Hyrule's royal family, much better than the soldier's armor he'd worn back then.
"That was no ordinary monster. Have you ever seen anything like it?" The young man spoke in barely a whisper.
This seemingly caused a cerulean fairy to fly out from his tunic, "I'm no expert on monsters, but that black sludge covering it gave off a very bad vibe."
A nod, "Made it look like a shadow almost. Perhaps Midna could have told us something about it."
"I can tell you what Fi would say: Master, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that this does not bode well."
He chuckled at the fairy's jibe, then looked around himself, "So, you said someone was calling for help… but who?"
Hestu tilted his head, "Mr. Hero is unable to see me? Again?" He thought, confused.
In response, she flew over to Hestu, "This plant fellow over here, I believe."
The young man's eyes went wide, "How the- where did he come from?"
"Hello!" The fairy called out hovering in front of Hestu's face, "I'm Proxi and this is the hero, Link."
…To be continued.
A/N: Alright, for those of you wondering what happened at the end, it is an opportunity to expand this into a sequel. I would like to emphasis that
IT MAY BE A WHILE BEFORE THE SEQUEL IS ACTUALLY WRITEN! (IF it gets written!)
Duke Serkol suggested this ending, considering I haven't played Hyrule Warriors OR Age of Calamity (yet). I would like to play them first before writing anything more. Also, I'm kinda hoping to play BotW 2 for more ideas before writing the sequel... whenever that game actually does make an appearance. Regardless, if I do write a sequel, I'll post another chapter on this fanfic telling you guys, so if you want to stay informed, I'd recommend following the story to get updates.
Thank you all for the favorites, follows, and reviews!
For anyone who's interested, I'll suggest a couple of good fanfics to read:
-Dimensional Links by ChangelingRin (Legend of Zelda: Centuries after Demise was sealed in the Master Sword, he reforms himself to find that his Hatred Incarnations have been utterly useless. He decides to take things into his own hands-and in the process tears holes in reality itself. To save the Universe, the Goddesses turn to their last hope: the Hero. Except this time, they're not sending just one - they're sending all of them.)
-To Build a Home by endlessblankpages (One Piece: The ASL pirates are used to being accused of crimes they didn't commit. But when they're accused of destroying a small village in the New World, it sends them hurtling toward a deadly confrontation with the strongest man in the world, Whitebeard. The results are not what they were expecting.)
-Sons of the Desert by Cap'nHoozits (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: Scar and Miles face the monumental task of rebuilding a land and a culture. Miles gets in touch with his roots and Scar's past isn't as erased as he thought it was. Rated T for language and thematic elements. Lots of OCs.)
-Second Chance by GwendolynStacy (Naruto: Shikamaru, Gaara and Naruto go back in time. Only Shikamaru and Gaara make it to the past.)
If you have any fanfics you want to suggest (especially LoZ or good Naruto ones) I do want to hear them!